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Weekly Roundup: VPAID Vuln, Grant for the Web, Zeus Prime, Impact of 1PA, and More.

Adtech Weekly Roundup
“Ad buyers have had many months to get used to using techniques such as bid shading to circumnavigate the initial price rise in inventory that the change to first-price causes” 

VPAID’s Vulnerability – Malware Delivered Via Ad Spec

VPAID (stands for Video Player Ad-Serving Interface Definition) is simply a tag that helps ad unit and video player to communicate with each other to deliver an interactive in-stream video ad. To compare, VAST tags connect ad servers and video players while VPAID connects ad units and video players.

The Known Problem:

Though the industry knows VPAID isn’t completely secure, vendors had to use it as it saves them from developing different versions of the ad creatives for each player they want to run ads on and most importantly, allows better reporting and measurement (think, viewability, video completion rate, etc.) support. 

VPAID renders an iframe upon execution and according to GeoEdge, attackers exploited it to cover their tracks. 


Attackers introduced a random JavaScript that could inject malware into a piece of creative. Specifically, attackers nested a redirect code within the ad creatives that mimicked a click. This, in turn, directed users to a phishing scam page or an app download page. While forced ad redirects aren’t new, exploiting VPAID to inject malware is. 

“When ads run in a sandbox, it’s hard for the video platform that served the ad – or for anyone – to see what’s happening inside.”

– Guy Books, VP of product at GeoEdge (AdExchanger).


GeoEdge saw a strong correlation between the increase in malware attacks and programmatic video ad spend. If you’re wondering how the industry plans to solve VPAID issues, check SIMID (Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition). From our weekly roundup:

“IAB Tech Lab released SIMID (Stands for Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition) to rid of VPAID and its inefficiencies. SIMID is like a VPAID, but with better control over user experience. It works on mobile and OTT environments. SIMID will work in tandem with VAST to help you deliver seamless interactive video ad experiences.”

Grant for the Web

How to fund the open web is a question that’s been debated more than anything else in the adtech. Some believe ads are the only way, some place their bets on subscriptions and a few tout ‘micropayments’ as the future. 

No, we aren’t going to discuss what’s the solution to funding the web here, but yet another attempt to propel micropayments forward. Mozilla, Creatives Common, and Coil, a micropayment startup put together a $100M fund to initiate a program “Grant for the Web”.

“That’s one of the big dreams that we have with the other partners around the Grant for the Web, [that] we can get back to a place where the small guy really has a chance to make it on the web”

– Stefan Thomas, Founder, and CEO, Coil. 


Program Highlights:

– The Grant program will shell out $20 million a year for the next five years to content sites, open-source infrastructure developers, and others relying on the web to fund their project. 

– An advisory council will be set up to make the important decision including pay-outs for creators. All the three founding collaborators – Mozilla, Creative Commons, and Coil are part of the Council. 

– Any company, individual, non-profit can apply for the grant and the program will wet who they’re going to fund initially.  


The program seeks content creators, supports, and “web custodians” to kick start the process. Like any other standard proposed recently, this one has a long way to go and it will be an uphill battle to make consumers pay once the fund gets exhausted. Besides, news sites wouldn’t be able to get the expected revenue – with micropayments. We’ll keep you updated.

The WaPo’s Zeus Prime

The Washington Post has been developing platforms for publishers. From an extensive CMS (Arc Publishing) to monetization (Zeus Suite), it rolled out a handful of products to the market in the past years – with the aim of creating a revenue stream. 

When the publisher released Zeus Insights, we wrote:

“Dubbed as Zeus Insights, the Washington Post’s first-party data tool will help advertisers to target users based on their intent and context of the page. As marketers are looking to figure out a way to identify users (w/o tracking cookies), the Post believes Zeus will fill up the gap with its intent-based targeting feature. 

The platform collects contextual data including what a user is reading, position, scroll depth, and referral source and matches the data with its existing audience data pools gathered over the last four years.” 

Last week, the Post announced the launch of its new ad network for brands and publishers. 

Zeus Prime:

Zeus Prime is a self-serve ad-buying platform for brands that will enable them to create and execute targeted ad campaigns on the Washington post (and soon, several national media outlets) with a few clicks. An advertiser can import their social media post, set targeting, and then run it across the Zeus Prime network of sites. 

The WaPo believes thousands of small and medium-sized businesses are looking to reach an audience – outside of Facebook and Google – where the content isn’t always filtered. Specifically, as Prime will allow advertisers to buy premium ad impressions in real-time, it hopes to gain faster adoption.  

Zeus Prime will be a part of Zeus Suite. With other Zeus products (for instance, Zeus Insights), Zeus Prime can help advertisers to implement better ad campaigns and reach the audience in a brand-safe, premium environment (as there’s no UGC). 

On the other hand, publishers can become part of Zeus Prime and enable advertisers to place ads on their site.  


Advertisers can use 1,400 contextual-topics for targeting. 

The WaPo hopes to earn a minimum CPM of $10. 

The platform is completely self-serve and advertisers can just import the posts and then run them across the network. 


The platform has no publishers (other than the Post, of course) and advertisers haven’t tried it yet. As the Washington Post promises premium ad impressions, Zeus Prime might develop into an elite network that has the top media companies on the sell-side and well-known brands on the buy-side.

Impact of Google’s switch to 1PA

Google, shifting its ad products to the first-price auction is a known story. Furthermore, both publishers and advertisers are well-aware of the fact that other exchanges (AppNexus, OpenX, etc.) are already running 1PA and techniques like ‘bid shading’ can normalize the ad rates. 

Well, to put it simply, the impact of the first-price auction is as predicted. Ad tech outlets like Digiday and AdExchanger reported that publishers’ saw their header bidding partners and non-AdWords ad networks to win more impressions. Secondly, CPM rates did spike for a short span of time and then normalized afterward. Most probably, DSPs used bid shading to find the sweet spot to win ad impressions. 

In fact, Google claims that 1PA helped third-party exchanges and SSPs win more and publishers’ revenue remained either the same or improved 10%. 

“Ad buyers have had many months to get used to using techniques such as bid shading to circumnavigate the initial price rise in inventory that the change to first-price causes” 

– Publisher.


Google said it will run a second-price auction on 3% of its inventory for comparing the two auction types. As a publisher, you need to ensure you’ve updated your price floors and created unified pricing rules to prevent any significant drop in revenue. And, use pricing rules optimally as Google limited its total number of rules to just 200.

Moments that Matter

MailOnline tests digital identifiers as replacements for third-party cookies – Digiday.

Zenith Forecasts $45B In Video Ads This Year, But TV Is Still King – AdExchanger.

What you need to know from IAB Europe’s Programmatic report – WARC.

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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