Interactivity in CTV Advertising

Part of the blog post series: CTV Advertising Standards: IAB Tech Lab Standards & Guidance

Executive Summary:

  • While interactive advertising can enable greater monetization opportunities, it is still a nascent area in Connected TV (CTV) as interactive ads are difficult to implement across the plethora of device platforms.
  • Tech Lab is working on two options to better support interactive advertising – the Video Ad Serving Interactive Templates (VAST), and the Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition (SIMID).

The Details:

The industry so far has rightly been focused on improving CTV ad delivery because there are several basic needs to be addressed. That said, interactive ads can be very powerful, can enable suppliers to monetize ad opportunities at higher levels, and can drive greater engagement and/or interest for an advertiser’s products, services, and/or content. Therefore, it is important for advertisers to develop more advanced and interactive ad units for the CTV environment, similar to those on mobile and desktop. It can be argued that the promise of “digital on TV” will only be fulfilled if we are able to deliver rich and interactive capabilities on CTV devices.

Tech Lab has started to lay the groundwork to support more advanced capabilities for CTV. We believe that interactive ads will take on two forms:

  1. Templatized interactive ads
  2. Scripted interactive ads

Templatized Interactive Ads

With templatized interactive ads, the interactive capabilities are completely implemented/controlled by the publisher app/OS platform, and the experience can be customized or modified using metadata delivered by the ad. For example, an end card ad experience where the user is provided a choice of ads could be implemented by the publisher, with images and links driven by the metadata in the ad. VAST 4 has standardized this concept with VAST Interactive Templates, where the metadata for the experience is passed in the VAST tag.

The big advantage of this approach is that it’s simple to support, with predefined experiences and well defined metadata. In addition, many publishers might consider this approach to be “safer” since there are no injected scripts. For these reasons, this approach might end up being very attractive for CTV platforms.

Scripted Interactive Ads

While templatized ads are easier to implement, they are also limited in their capabilities. The interactive options a templatized ad can support are pre-determined. Introducing new templates as standards can also be a long process (though VAST extensions can be used to roll concepts out faster, with limited scale). This is where scripted ads come in. With scripts, more advanced and immersive experiences can be built, and would be fully controlled by the ad creator.

If all this sounds familiar, that is because we have seen the same story play out on the web with the Video Player Ad Insertion Definition (VPAID). That is why Tech Lab has been working to get ahead of the curve and learn from history. We have factored in the security implications up front, as well as the implications around Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI) and publisher playback control. To this end, we have developed the interactive replacement for VPAID: the Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition (SIMID). With SIMID and VAST 4, media files are separated from interactive capabilities. This enables use in SSAI and CTV scenarios. SIMID has been built with security in mind, with the interactive code run in a separate (and secure) layer.

All that said, we have only seen experimental implementations of SIMID on CTV platforms so far. In fact, we have only seen a few examples of interactive ad experiences on CTV platforms on the whole, and it likely will be a little while before we see VAST interactive templates or SIMID support on CTV platforms. That may be expected considering how nascent the CTV space is, and the need for the industry to focus now on many of the delivery and ad fraud complexities for CTV. Tech Lab encourages CTV platforms and app publishers to experiment with various interactive capabilities, and take advantage of both templated and scripted options when they are ready.

Related assets & new efforts:

Privacy, Data & Identity
CTV/OTT IFA guidelines
CTV User Agent and App Identifiers Guidance
Project Rearc
SKAdNetwork support
Transparency Compliance Framework (TCF)
CCPA Compliance Framework
Content Taxonomy (with updates for CTV coming soon)
Data Label and Audience Taxonomy
Brand Safety
Content Taxonomy (brand safety floor/suitability updates coming soon in 2.2)
COVID & Brand Safety blog post
Features in Open Measurement, OpenRTB, VAST4
Anti-Fraud / Transparency
SSAI guidance in VAST4
CTV User Agent and App Identifiers guidance
ads.txt/app-ads.txt (CTV-specific guidance coming soon)
sellers.json & SupplyChain object
Sales & Delivery
VAST 4.x
VAST 4 Macros
Digital Video Ad Format Guidelines
CATS (Common Ad Transport Standard)
Simplifying Video Ad Delivery (blog)
Measurement
Open Measurement (CTV support being developed)
VAST 4 & Measurement
CTV User Agent and App Identifiers guidance
SSAI Guidance in VAST 4
Simplifying Video Ad Delivery (blog)
Interactivity
Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition (SIMID)
VAST 4 Interactive Templates
Simplifying Video Ad Delivery (blog)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Amit Shetty
Senior Director, Product
IAB Tech Lab

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