When the standard was set in August 2022, instream and outstream became extremely black-and-white categories. The Tech Lab initially sought to create a clearer separation between the two leading categories and to better define what constituted as instream video. Starting in October, a proposal was brought to broaden the video advertising definitions and create more nuance amongst the categories.
The update was not about adding more categories to the video advertising guidelines, but in fact, was more about changing the existing categories to create more refinement and clarity. This change was made by a working group in the Tech Lab in order to serve the industry’s needs better.
The dichotomy between instream and outstream set back in 2022 was problematic for members of the programmatic supply chain. The reality of the video environment is that not all outstream should be treated the same, but with the previous specifications, there was no variation between what constituted as outstream. Now, with the new definitions, there are three “outstream” variations.
What are the New Definitions?
The updated definitions are as follows:
Pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads that are played before, during or after the streaming video content that the consumer has requested. Instream video must be set to “sound on” by default at player start,
or have explicitly clear user intent to watch the video content. While there may be other content surrounding the player, the video content must be the focus of the user’s visit. It should remain the primary content on the page and the only video player in-view capable of audio when playing. If the player converts to floating/sticky subsequent ad calls should accurately convey the updated player size.
Pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-roll ads that are played before, during, or after streaming video content. The video player loads and plays before, between, or after paragraphs of text or graphical content, and starts playing only when it enters the viewport. Accompanying content should only start playback upon entering the viewport. It may convert to a floating/sticky player as it scrolls off the page.
Video ads that are played without video content. During playback, it must be the primary focus of the page and take up the majority of the viewport and cannot be scrolled out of view. This can be in placements like in-app video or slideshows.
Video ads that are played without streaming video content. This can be in placements like slideshows, native feeds, in-content or sticky/floating.
Why is This Important?
Aside from broadening the video definitions, this change is significant from the prospect of the buy side and the sell side. Overall, the new specifications promote transparency on an industry-wide scale and are a step in the right direction toward clearer paths.
For sellers, these specifications give a greater incentive to develop their video content experience. Without creating variation between outstream quality video and lower quality outstream that gives users a poor viewing experience, there is no reason for a seller to invest in content. The latest specs ensure that publishers and brands are motivated to invest in the best possible user experience they can offer. Users care about relevant, quality content, and their viewing experiences are key. Now, when publishers provide a better user experience, they receive higher CPMs for a video ad accompanied by real video content, versus other formats such as standalone ads. This is a true incentive that was previously slighted.
For buyers, this change is fundamental. Buyers want to know what they are buying. Allocating their budgets to inventory that is more clearly labeled adds a level of buying precision that was previously missing. The IAB Tech Lab’s specifications help buyers see what kind of inventory they are purchasing.
The changes are a big improvement to the industry standard, but they are constantly evolving and developing, just like the world of video.