Dynamic Ad Insertion And the Upfronts

Dynamic Ad Insertion And the Upfronts

It’s “upfront” season, which is as good a reason as any to revisit what’s going on at that vital intersection between video advertising and technology.

Starting, of course, with the three-letter acronym that is DAI, which stands for dynamic ad insertion. That’s the umbrella name for the category of work that is splicing refreshed ads into stored content — either to swap out a contextuallyexpired ad on a VOD asset (ditch the snowshoes for the swimwear), or to park a house ad or promo into a title on “day four,” which is one day after the Nielsen C3 measurement window ends.

Networks and MSOs like DAI because it creates a way to perpetually monetize the on-demand category. With it, ads no longer instantly expire, as they do on live and linear television.


What networks don’t like about it is the workload duplication that happens when inserting into linear, on-demand and online programming. To them, it’s great that advertisers want to buy across platforms, but not so great when it comes to reconciling and reporting what ran where from three different service types. To them, “on-demand” needs to span VOD and online.

As it is, some networks are already preparing 20 or more versions of a show just to suit the growing range of display devices and services.

And that brings us to yet another chapter in the saga that is “standards are great, so many to choose from!” Turns out that the standards developed for traditional VOD, known as SCTE 130, are different and unaligned with the specifications developed by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) for online VOD, known as VAST (for “Video Ad Serving Template.”)

(Aside: In the research for this one, a network-side pal uttered “SCTE” not as its constituent letters, but as a kind of word, pronounced “skutty.” Hadn’t heard that one before.)

Quick refresher: SCTE 130 grew out of an early- 2000s industrial weariness of monolithic, proprietary vendor options. Just as with set-tops, cable modems, and VOD servers (remember the hullaballoo over separating storage from streaming pumps?), operators wanted more choice in ad insertion components. They wanted to be able to buy component pieces, not big globs of integrated gear.

So, SCTE 130 was devised, which chopped the work of ad insertion into five pieces — campaign management, content type, placement type and so on. Different vendors lined up around the different “pieces.” That quelled the pain of being bound to one vendor, but overwhelmed the business side of buying equipment.

As one ad-side tech aficionado put it: “After we created the ability to pick and choose between the pieces, our purchasing people said, ‘This is way too complicated — tell me again why we can’t just buy from one or two guys?’ ”

Meanwhile, the IAB continues to develop its “IAB Video Suite,” a set of specs also developed for crossplatform, multiscreen TV viewing. An active vendor community exists around it.

Hello again, fragmentation.


Here’s the good news: Despite its longstanding reputation for being a group of technological luddites, the advertising community does ultimately get things done. Ever walk into the office of an ad-side exec the morning after a night when no ads aired, for whatever glitch of a reason? No ads running means no revenue, which means no commission — which means heads will roll.

In the case of DAI, the ads are running. It’s just that they’re running on three different tracks — linear, VOD and online — which is a colossal pain to manage. Maybe it’s time to figure out how the standards of SCTE 130 can link to the specifications of the IAB, and vice versa. Just a thought.

Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis attranslation-please.com or multichannel.com/blog.