A Beginner’s Guide to Programmatic Video Advertising

Updated on: February 19, 2024
Programmatic video may look nascent, but the demand is steadily increasing every year.

According to Statista, U.S. marketers will spend $74.99 billion on digital video advertising this year. Therefore, programmatic video is expected to contribute to a significant portion of your ad revenue in the near future.

Programmatic Digital Video Ad Spending

By being here, we can see that you’re progressing toward the right path (programmatic video advertising). A study by Forbes and IPG Media Lab found that consumers are twice as likely to remember a video ad (or any branded content) than a display ad (a banner image).

Besides, users are more diversified than ever. Buyers can’t close deals with a handful of premium publishers to cover the entire market. As premium publishers continually explore paywalls and newsletter options, the probability of running a video on premium placements is still in question. We believe it’s time for you to jump right in.

What Is the Programmatic Video?

As the name implies, the programmatic video is the video impressions or video ads traded programmatically with the help of SSPs, DSPs, and Ad Exchanges. It requires the same set of technologies and infrastructure as programmatic display advertising.

What Are the Formats of Programmatic Video?

At present, there are three formats of programmatic video.

  • In-Stream Video Ads
  • Out-Stream Video Ads
  • In-Banner Video Ads

Similar to display sizes, video formats will allow both the publishers and advertisers to experiment and pick the suitable format.

1. In-stream

In-stream video ads play along with your video content, thus making it completely adaptable to the environment. But it also means you must maintain a video library on your own to run ads.

These ads can be placed at the beginning of the video content (pre-roll), in the middle of the video content (mid-roll), and after the video content (post-roll). The pre-roll format is preferred as it can earn higher CPMs for publishers and increased VCR (video completion rate) for advertisers.

The unbeatable advantage of in-stream video ads is that the user initiates them. It doesn’t autoplay while reading the content.

2. Out-stream

Out-stream video ads can be played with or without your own video player and content. The out-stream video format suits publishers with a huge chunk of editorial content and little to no video content.

The ads in this format are usually auto-played without any sound when the viewability rate is over 50%. Users can choose to view the video completely or scroll away to skip it. Out-stream video ads are also capable of demanding higher CPMs, as the advertisers are only charged for viewable ad impressions.

3. In-banner

In-banner video ads usually accompany standard banner ads (300×250 or 728×90). They are auto-played without any sound and can be longer than the other formats as there is no time limitation.

These ads aren’t user-initiated and could distort the page layout when implemented incorrectly. On the upside, you can try them without the video player or video content. Publishers have been experimenting with different in-banner video formats.

For instance, Bloomberg started trying out a new in-banner format (dubbed Ad.apt format)  recently.

Of all sizes, 970×250 is considered the best as they yield higher viewability rates.

Why Should You Try a Programmatic Video?

When you let all the dust settle, you can clearly see the benefits of programmatic video yourself. As you already know, it all starts with transparency and scalability. Programmatic videos are one of the best transparent ways to monetize video content on your properties. And, of course, it is scalable.

If you can maintain a streamlined supply chain and niche audience, you’ll get the best out of your content. Besides, you can run video ads even when you don’t have any video content. Who doesn’t like to earn extra money without adding more content?

It is clear that full-screen ads, pop-up (with countdown) ads, prestitial ads (blocking the content), etc., would be bad for the user experience. But running a non-intrusive video ad without any sound doesn’t affect the users. Experiment and find the ideal placement before rolling out the ads across the site.

Where Are We?

Header bidding took its time to storm the market. The same is true for programmatic video advertising. The programmatic video is still in its initial phase. Publishers (mostly premium and mid-market) have started implementing solutions like video header bidding to ensure they can reap the best eCPM for impressions.

Noticeably, the demand trend is concerted towards premium and a few mid-market publishers. The rest is on the walled gardens (Facebook, Instagram, etc.). However, the publishers’ adoption rate plays an important role in the future of programmatic videos. If advertisers are seeing a lot of promising impressions (for lesser eCPMs), they’ll be happy to turn back to the open internet.

The most pressing problem of video header bidding is latency. It is a fact that users are drilling down the video channels to consume more content. When a user shifts their consuming behavior, both the publishers and buyers are compelled to follow suit. That’s why you’re seeing a rise in new video channels across the web. But there’s a problem.

When trading impressions based on user data, placing the right video ad at the right time is difficult. Especially, the rich content formats multiply the page latency and deface the mobile layout (in case of low bandwidths). So, obviously, publishers would prefer to keep the content lite. On the contrary, buyers are willing to experiment with rich formats because of the users’ fondness for video content.

The solution is to take a pertinent approach. If you’re implementing video header bidding, ensure the partners are active and winning. You can have a backup (waterfall) to fill the impressions but ensure the setup is optimized for speed.

Is Implementing Programmatic Video Ads Easy?

With the complexities involved, you can say that the implementation is quite technical. Whether you’re going with a third party (which takes care of everything, so no transparency) or using an open-source wrapper (prebid supports video header bidding), you have to deal with errors.

What’s the best way? If you’re not a premium publisher, it’s better to let an SSP handle the video header bidding setup.

IAB Standards


Video Ad Serving Template (VAST) is a video serving standard developed by IAB to let ad servers and video players communicate seamlessly. You can consider VAST the common language required to connect ad servers and video players.


Video Player Ad-Serving Interface Definition (VPAID) is a specification developed by IAB to enable interaction between video ad unit and video player. VPAID helps the video player handle non-linear ads, video specifications, viewability, and other measurements. But the differences between VAST and VPAID are not so simple; it is better to understand them in detail.

What’s Next?

The industry has made its first step already. With the increasing demand rate and CPMs, publishers aren’t going to hold back from video ads. That being said, advertisers prefer quality and transparency as they did before for programmatic display advertising. We advise gear up your site and ensure it’s ready when the storm hits the shed.


What Is Programmatic Video?

Programmatic video advertising uses automated technology to buy and sell digital video ads. It uses real-time bidding to place ads in front of the right audience at the right time.

How Programmatic Video Advertising Works?

Programmatic video advertising works by identifying the most relevant audience for a campaign, purchasing video ad inventory through a real-time auction, and serving the ad to the audience in real time based on their online behavior and preferences.

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