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Industry Adoption of Amended IAB Tech Lab Guidelines Is Vital to Drive Change

Building a more transparent and efficient ecosystem is an industry-wide effort, and in August of 2022, the IAB Tech Lab introduced updates to its Ad Formats Guidelines for Digital Video and CTV in hopes of driving further transparency. Despite these updates, the signals needed to determine the value of video inventory were not available, and the industry came together to form a working group to update the existing definitions and provide even more clarity for publishers, advertisers, and technology companies.

However, the only proper way to drive real change is through equal, widespread adoption and enforcement of these new standards. Since the amendment of the IAB Tech Lab’s 2022 video ad updates earlier this year, the journey to industry-wide implementation has been gradual. Change can be difficult, and many have questions on how to interpret the new definitions. So we’re breaking down everything you need to know to better understand the guidelines, bringing us closer to industry-wide adoption. You can review the most recent updates and see examples here

Publishers, DSPs, SSPs, and the industry at large are working to better understand these new values and craft a tangible action plan to implement them within their businesses. Here are three helpful tips to keep in mind when navigating the new definitions:

  1. There are now TWO ways for a video to be classified as an instream experience under the new spec

A recent report by Connatix on how consumers prefer their video ads found that 54% of consumers watch videos with sound on most of the time or always, compared to only 6% who never watch with sound. However, since auto sound on is not supported by browsers like Google Chrome, and isn’t always the best experience for the user, the latest spec now also classifies a video as instream if there is a clear intent from the user to watch it. If the video is the main focus of the page, and if it is about a topic that a user requested to see then it is considered instream regardless of whether it automatically plays with sound. It’s also important to note that if you are using a floating player, once it transitions to float it can no longer be considered instream.

  1. The new guidelines keep the consumer in mind by outlining clear user intent

When a person clicks on a link to learn more about a topic, they expect to view content about that topic but may be indifferent to the format in which it’s presented. If the video is an exact match to the subject of the page but there was no declaration that a video would play, it should be considered Accompanying Content. If a user clicked on a link that declared a video would play, but the video content does not match what the user expected to see, it is not instream. If a user clicks to play a video after following a link, they’ve also shown intent – so that’s instream too. With both of these examples, audio doesn’t signal intent, but it mirrors the way people consume content on the internet. Then there’s the last way to look at intent; someone watching a video about a topic they requested with the sound on. DSPs will be looking at supply partners to QA this process. If a supply source shows to be untrustworthy in sending the correct signals they may default to accompanying content for all placements, even those that qualify for instream, so it’s important to speak to your DSP partners about content classification.

  1. New video type – accompanying content – provides additional clarity

A new video type made its way onto the scene with the amended guidelines: accompanying content. This new category helps differentiate the relevance between premium, in-stream video, and standalone video ads, allowing publishers the opportunity to suggest relevant content in the same way social platforms do, for example, without being labeled as outstream. While accompanying content is not the same as true instream, it is incredibly valuable. Publishers can still leverage accompanying content as a means to further engage readers, and advertisers can ensure they are reaching their audiences with topics that are of interest to them. 

*Google Chrome automatically mutes sound, even when a user intended to watch the video but the player itself should always be set to sound on to be considered instream.

As the industry continues to adopt and implement these changes, publishers who are leveraging these new values to prioritize high-quality experiences for their readers will thrive, securing higher budgets from advertisers and more engagement from audiences. More transparency around video placement environments will also benefit buyers. These new values have the opportunity to add immense value to all sides of the ecosystem, but not unless we all work together to adopt them. As we work to drive industry-wide adoption, together we can improve connectivity and transparency between buyers, sellers, and other industry partners, to provide an improved experience across the board for consumers.


Jenn Chen
President and CRO