The IAB has recognized the power of giving consumers the choice of skipping ads in online video by including a guideline in VAST 3.0 which is open for feedback until early May. Along with Skippable Linear Ads, Ad Pods are being introduced which are “a sequenced group of ads” much like that which is found at Hulu.

The Skippable Linear Ads are the most interesting to me because it shows that the IAB believes that giving the viewer the option to skip an ad, “create a better user experience, result in lower abandonment rates for publishers, and support a business model where publishers and advertisers can negotiate billing based on creative played to completion,” which is directly from the Skippable Linear Creative subsection of VAST 3.0.

Controls for the Skippable Linear Ads include:

  • Skipoffset attribute – Determins how long an ad plays prior to the skip control being offered. It can be either a specific period of time or a percentage of the creative.
  • Skip Event – Supplies a trackable resource so that skips can be accurately tracked. So for example, an image could be called by the player which then tells the server the ad was skipped.
  • Progress Event – This is used for “view” determination and can be negotiated between publisher and advertiser. It’s the amount of creative that is displayed signifying a view for ad buying. So if there is an agreement that 50% of an ad shown is a view, then when 50% is passed this would be triggered and the view would be counted.

I made a little graphic out of one from the VAST 3.0 documentation:

Frankly, I think what they’ve done here is fantastic. Since it’s included in the VAST 3.0 guideline it validates much of that research that showed giving viewers an option to skip an ad can be valuable. Plus, the built in controls for the Skippable Linear Ads allows a lot of room to work for both publishers and advertisers. So any product that supports VAST 3.0 will allow publishers and advertisers to make determinations of what a view is.

Since this has been one of the most contentious points in video advertising for the past couple years, it’s great. While some companies, like comScore, state that 3 seconds is a view, others have gone the 100% route. I always thought 3 seconds was completely arbitrary because if the content was 5 minutes 3 second is just 1% of the content. Now, most ads are 15-60 seconds so you’re looking at a 5-20% range there.

What I really like is that it could also allow for two levels of ad buying which helps the publisher. Obviously the ad server is tracking when the creative is pulled for a viewer, that would be one level, when the “view” is completed that could be an additional level. So in essence you might be able to negotiate a small initial payment for the creative beginning to play and then a “view” rate for those ads which reached the agreed upon length. So you could have a two-level, almost performance bonus strategy where it’s an initial CPM which is low and then a major payout for CPV – that agreed upon view determination. That would do two things; save advertisers lost money on straight CPM video ad placement and give publishers more incentive to place those ads because there would still be a trickle of revenue even if most of the ads didn’t reach “view” status.

Lay your eyes on the whole VAST 3.0 Draft document.