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How Server-Side Ad Insertion is Making Online Ads More User-Friendly
By moving to server-side ad insertion, publishers can counteract ad blockers and provide a better experience for their viewers

The following is a sponsored article.

By 2017, 80 percent of all internet traffic will be online video traffic, and the increased demand for online video content has online video advertisers racing to get ahead.

The challenge is that the industry is still figuring out how to monetize online video content without turning away an increasingly demanding audience. In a recent Moz consumer survey, 42 percent of consumers said traditional advertising, like TV commercials, had a positive effect on their purchasing decisions. But nearly 48 percent said that seeing an online display ad makes them less likely to buy a product or service.

This is not a coincidence. It’s not that consumers dislike ads, it’s that they don’t enjoy being interrupted. And online ads are the most disruptive of all. It’s no wonder that ad-blocking technology grew by a whopping 48 percent in 2015.

Luckily, new advances in ad technology are already making it possible to overcome ad blockers and deliver online video with a seamless, TV-like experience. And it’s all done without sacrificing ad relevancy and one-to-one personalization, arguably online ads’ two greatest benefits.

Today, video content is typically served from the content delivery network (CDN), whereas ads are usually served from third-party ad servers. These two delivery methods are only combined at the browser level, when viewers start watching videos. Ad blockers take advantage of this fragmented delivery by preventing ad-serving domains from delivering content, but still allowing viewers to access publisher content.

By contrast, server-side ad insertion, also called ad stitching, attaches targeted ad content to video content much earlier -- at the content management system (CMS) level -- rather than at the browser level. It bypasses ad blockers by serving both pieces of content in one package, making it impossible to separate the two. But it also has several other advantages that benefit viewers, advertisers and content creators alike. Here are just a few:

1. Improved viewer experience

If there’s one surefire way to put off a consumer, it’s buffering. Waiting forever for a video to load, or worse still, watching an ad with no video afterwards, is one of the biggest buzzkills around. As a matter of fact, 64 percent of consumers cite slow load times as a key reason for enabling ad blockers.

Linking an ad to a video before it’s served, rather than on the fly, is the best way to eliminate buffering. Because the ads and video are part of the same content package, they’re optimized to match each other in performance, quality and specs. The video player doesn’t need extra time between them to readjust. The result is a more TV-like experience that gives servers, users and advertisers the expected content without the hassle of buffering.

2. Simpler delivery, more resilient platforms

If you thought buffering made users angry, just see what happens when the page crashes after they sit through the pre-roll, forcing them to reload the page and watch the pre-roll again. Client-side advertising requires a lot of per-platform code, especially when the user is watching video through an app. This doesn’t just mean higher development costs for the one implementing the page or app; it also means a fragile playback experience for the user. A 100% server-side ad solution is far less complex to build and manage, and is also less likely to crash, no matter the environment.

3. A blended approach to personalization

The main objective of any advertiser is not just to have an ad delivered, but to have it seen. No one wants to create and pay for delivery of an ad only to have it blocked just before it is seen, a real possibility in a world where viewing rates hover around 54 percent. Yet only linking ads with content at the server end isn’t the answer either; ad stitching alone makes it difficult to measure who’s watching ads and who isn’t. Luckily, there is a solution: ad stitching can be combined with lightweight client-side validation to see impressions. This blended approach offers the advantages of ad stitching, while ensuring ad spend isn’t wasted on blocked ads.

Server-side ad insertion is a vast improvement over existing ad-blocking systems. Better content delivery means more engagement, less pushback from viewers, and ultimately a more productive relationship between advertisers, publishers and consumers. And in the end, stronger relationships are what all of us are after.

With contribution by Emily Alford of Hippo Reads.

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