Video Ad Technology: What You Need to Know

Jan 22, 2018


Takeaways from IAB’s “Guide to Digital Video Advertising”

For many publishers, the world of video advertising can sometimes be an intimidating place. Before content producers can even think of monetizing, they must first understand the many moving parts involved in serving a digital video ad.

In order to help publishers get their bearings, we frequently recommend the bible of video advertising, IAB’s  “Guide to Digital Video Advertising.” Here are a few of the most pertinent insights for those of you who are finding your footing in digital video.


The ad server is responsible for communicating with the user’s browser to deliver and record the results of digital ads.

Every single online ad you see is the result of a lightning-fast, multi-step process. It involves three kinds of servers: The publisher web server delivers the editorial content to the page. The publisher ad server chooses which ad to show the user, and the marketer ad server delivers that ad unit to the page. Here’s what happens:

The process begins when the user directs the web browser to navigate to a given web page. 

After receiving a signal from the browser, the publisher’s web server tells the browser where its content is located and how that content ought to be formatted for the user.

The code that the publisher web server sends to the browser contains the “ad tag,” a snippet of code that helps the publisher’s web server communicate with its ad server.

After receiving the ad tag, the publisher ad server uses its internal decisioning logic to select one of thousands of pieces of potential creative.

Next, the publisher ad server puts out a call telling the marketer ad server which ad unit it wants to show the user.

The marketer ad server then calls for the creative unit from a group of servers called the content delivery network, and voila, the ad is served. 

Along the way, the impression is reported as served by both the publisher and marketer ad servers.


The video player delivers the user’s video content, inserts the video ad unit, and records data on how the user experiences the ad.

In addition to playing the video content the user came to see, the video player receives a message from the video ad server containing the ad creative in multiple formats. It’s then up to the player to determine the best size and format for rendering the ad. After the video player delivers the ad, it passes user data to publishers and marketers, allowing them to understand how people experienced and engaged with their content.


VAST is a standard template that allows video players to communicate with ad servers across the industry.

In the early days of video advertising, each publisher would create their own custom solutions for video playing and ad serving, forcing advertisers to make their technology compatible with scores of publisher-side tools. As a result, IAB developed standard video player templates that worked with marketers around the world.

Today, the most popular standard is the Video Ad Serving Template (VAST). When publishers use VAST, advertisers have a common language for instructing the video player as to how the ad should be rendered. In addition, VAST allows advertisers and publishers to measure impressions, clicks, and completed views.


Want to learn more about the nitty gritty of video advertising? Schedule a call with one of our video experts.

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