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Joining Forces to Tackle Challenges in Cross-Platform Video Advertising

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The advertising industry is seeing a convergence between “traditional” linear/broadcast TV and digital video (video delivered over the internet to mobile, desktop, and OTT devices). Advertisers are now looking to run campaigns across all media with the goal of reaching their target audiences without having to worry about running and managing campaigns on separate platforms.

To better support the advertising community, the IAB Tech Lab is partnering with other industry groups with the goal of streamlining the development and distribution of video ads across all platforms. These industry partners have formed the TV Convergence Technical Task Force to focus on cross-platform issues. The groups currently involved are the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers, AICP, the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, the Digital Production Partnership, the North American Broadcasters Association, the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, and the IAB Tech Lab.

Initially, the TV Convergence Technical Task Force will focus on the following use cases:

1. File Delivery Specifications
2. Advertising Metadata
3. Audio Specifications and Best Practices

File Delivery Specifications
In the past and in the absence of standards, each publisher defined its own specifications for content and ads, which resulted in the proliferation of a wide variety of file formats. Some industry organizations have worked to reduce this number. For example, the IAB Tech Lab has released VAST4 and the Digital Video Ad Format Guidelines. But there still are too many formats in the marketplace. Apart from distribution formats, the publishers still have to transcode the content to formats best suited to be streamed/delivered to each device their users are on. The TV Convergence Task Force is working to simplify this ecosystem by focusing on distribution file formats. The vision for the group is to agree on a common format across the board. In the near term we are working together to settle on the interim AICP specs and IAB Video Ad Formats and then work on converging those specs.

Advertising Metadata
Today metadata is inconsistently managed and often an afterthought. The result is confusion and a lot of manual effort spent in aggregating and explaining information stored in multiple locations. The TV Convergence Task Force believes that defining metadata early in the workflow is key, since that will ensure that the information can be used consistently across the entire process. To this end, the task force will look into solutions for standardizing metadata in delivery files. For example, Ad-ID might store detailed metadata for a creative, with a subset included in the delivery file. That subset should be sufficient to create a VAST tag and enable ad servers and clients to make fast decisions like filtering and relevance. More complex operations might require a call to the Ad-ID back end using the creative ID. All this underscores the need to develop best practices around metadata and streamline its usage in the ad content delivery chain.

Audio Specifications and Best Practices
Audio specifications for ads have so far been defined in isolation from audio specifications for the publishers’ regular video content. In addition, device-specific considerations (like switching between Dolby and stereo formats) have not been factored in to ad specifications. Another area that should be addressed is the need to maintain consistent audio loudness levels (similar to the CALM Act in broadcast TV). Updating the ad specifications with the support of this task force and its collective knowledge will ensure that challenges like these are covered soon.

Other areas will be covered in the future once these initial problems are resolved. The task force will aim to ensure that the collective knowledge across various industry groups is enlisted to build specifications that are cross-platform and consistent across publishers, and to simplify workflows for media buyers and creative agencies.

To learn more about VAST4 or the TV Convergence Task Force, please email Amit Shetty at

Amit Shetty
Video and Audio Products
IAB Tech Lab