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  • Writer's picturePeter Fontana

8 Causes of Video Ad Failure and How to Set Them Right

Family watching a video ad failure on their living room TV.

OTT streaming video continues to take viewers away from broadcast, cable, and satellite TV, representing over a third of daily viewing. While all streaming services benefit from this growth, the fastest-growing segment is ad-supported video on demand (AVOD). While viewers tolerate commercials in their streaming content, they’re less forgiving when these ads fail to load or play correctly.

So, what causes video ad failure, and how can OTT providers prevent it? It’s a combination of technical issues and available ad inventory, as you’ll learn in this useful article.

Key Takeaways

  • Video ad failure can negatively impact the viewing experience and advertising revenues.

  • Technological causes of ad failure include incorrect ad tags, insufficient bandwidth, incompatible file formats, and overly complex delivery pipelines.

  • Unfilled ad requests can result from too many ad slots, too high ad floors, and too much competition for advertisers.

  • To minimize video ad failure, providers must address relevant technical issues, set realistic ad loads and pricing, and take advantage of available third-party tools.

What Is Video Ad Failure?

Surprisingly, to some pundits, viewers are generally receptive to ads in streaming programming. According to TiVo’s Video Trends Report, 58% of streaming viewers say they don’t mind commercials while watching TV.

Viewer tolerance of TV/streaming video ads.

Reflecting this statistic, ad-supported streaming services are experiencing significant growth. However, this growth can be hindered by the failure of streaming ads to launch or play correctly.

Ideally, one or more video ads are inserted into a streaming program at natural and pre-selected program breaks. With programmatic ad technology, these ads should reflect viewers’ interests and demographics, making them more acceptable to viewers. It also helps when the commercials shown are not overly repetitive.

Unfortunately, this ideal scenario is not always the reality. Viewers often experience various video ad failures, including:

  • Ads inserted between natural program breaks, often in the middle of a scene

  • Limited ad variety, resulting in the same ads repeating throughout a program

  • Ads taking too long to start

  • Ads failing to start at all

  • Ad playback that stutters or freezes

  • Poor picture or sound quality

If viewers experience too many video ad failures, they might change channels or even abandon the streaming service. If problems persist across multiple services, they may decide that paying extra for an ad-free experience may not be a bad deal after all.

What Causes Video Ad Failure?

Video ad failure can stem from various issues, some technical and others related to the advertisements themselves. Let’s look at the top eight causes.

1. Incorrectly Implemented VAST Tags

How VAST tags work.

Some video ad failures are caused by human error, specifically incorrectly implementing video ad serving template (VAST) tags. This can lead to blank space instead of the intended ads.

The ad server looks for ads tagged as indicated in the ad manifest. If an ad is mislabeled, the server won’t find the ad and won’t be able to fill the available ad space.

Mislabeling can result from simple human error, like a worker pressing the wrong key. It can also be more systematic, such as when ad templates aren’t compatible with the expected standards.

2. Ad Server Issues

Technical issues with the ad server often result in ad failures. A crashing ad server affects all queued ads until it reboots, and possibly even after. An overloaded ad server can also be problematic if it serves ads too slowly. Never overlook obvious technical causes.

3. Insufficient Bandwidth

Another common technical issue is insufficient bandwidth. If available bandwidth is too low, it can affect the playback of both the ads and surrounding content.

Insufficient bandwidth can result in various types of playback errors, including:

  • Slow ad starts

  • Poor video quality

  • Rebuffering

4. Oversized Ad Files

Sometimes what appears to be an issue of insufficient bandwidth is actually caused by trying to serve files that are large. Trying to serve too big a file can increase latency, delay start times, and affect playback quality.

5. Incompatible File Formats

Given the large and growing number of video file formats, it’s not unheard of for an ad to be delivered in a format that’s incompatible with other technologies in the pipeline. If an ad server can’t play an ad as delivered, empty air results. This is especially problematic with programmatic advertising, where ads are chosen and delivered in near-real time, leaving no time to identify or rectify incompatibilities.

What is programmatic advertising?

6. Ad Request Timeouts

A slow stream can cause an ad request to time out before the ad is served. Timeouts can also result from an undersized content delivery network (CDN), underperforming ad servers, or network bandwidth issues. OTT advertising depends on split-second decision-making and serving, both of which require immediate responses throughout the pipeline.

7. Excessive Wrapper Redirects

The streaming video advertising pipeline is often complex. A long daisy chain of wrapper redirects can slow down or shut down the entire process. The IAB recommends using no more than five wrapper redirects in ad responses. Any more can increase latency and create an unacceptable viewer experience.

8. Not Enough Advertisers

Not all video ad failures are technological. The ads themselves, or the ad sales and delivery process, can also be at fault.

With a growing number of ad-supported channels and services, the number of available ad slots sometimes outpaces the number of available ads. If there aren’t enough ads to fill the airtime, providers may either air blank space or repeat a few ads over and over—neither of which is appealing to viewers.

Why might a service not have enough advertisers to fill its ad inventory? The reasons include:

  • Ad floors are too high, driving away potential advertisers

  • Ad loads are too large, especially in less popular programming

  • Poorly described content fails to sell the content to advertisers

  • Too much competition for too few advertisers

How to Minimize Video Ad Failure

Given the various causes of video ad failure, OTT providers need to take several different steps to minimize it. These steps should include the following:

  • Right-sizing the number of available ad units for each individual program—avoid overloading less-popular programs with too many ad slots

  • Creating descriptive metadata for all streaming content

  • Setting realistic price floors for programmatic auctions

  • Simplifying the ad-serving pipeline

  • Ensuring adequate bandwidth for high-quality viewing

  • Performing regular audits of your ad-delivery service to identify potential issues and ensure optimal performance

  • Carefully examining any error codes generated

If you don’t proactively address the causes of video ad failure, you risk losing viewers and accumulating unsold ad inventory. Take these steps to create a more satisfying and profitable experience for viewers and advertisers.

Turn to Penthera to Reduce Video Ad Failure

To minimize video ad failure, you should utilize powerful third-party tools designed to improve the ad viewing experience. Check out the following solutions from Penthera:

  • 2nd Look enables smarter real-time ad decision-making and evens out ad distribution

  • PlayAssure reduces rebuffering by building out a real-time buffer

  • Fastplay eliminates start-up delays by prepositioning video elements

Major OTT services such as Paramount+ and Showtime, serving over 100 million devices, currently use Penthera's streaming solutions. It’s an easy way to minimize video ad failure and maximize advertising profits.

Contact Penthera today to learn more about reducing video ad failure in streaming video.


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