Solving The Challenges of SSAI Measurement

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Many streaming operators, especially those offering live streaming and FAST services, are moving to server-side ad insertion (SSAI). There are a multitude of reasons for this. First, SSAI offers more of a broadcast-like ad experience as ads are “stitched” into the stream in real-time. Second, because ad insertion happens prior to the player, there is less impact on the client of fetching and integrating ads (which can require additional code). And finally, perhaps most important, ads served through SSAI are not addressable by client-side ad blockers. Despite these pros, there is a significant con of SSAI: measurement accuracy. Thankfully, there is a solution to filing the gaps in SSAI ad measurement.

Understanding the Measurement Issues with SSAI

The core measurement issue revolves around how SSAI is integrated into the ad tech stack. Ads delivered in this way require an Ad Decisioning Server, whose job is to supply the ad for insertion. Ads are supplied to an Ad Insertion Server which transcodes the ad to match the video’s bitrate ladder, packages the ad, produces a manifest for the ad, and then stitches the ad’s manifest to the video manifest.

The issue is the data upon which the operator has to ensure a view or impression. Data from the Ad Decisioning Server can only tell them that an ad was requested and it was sent to the Ad Insertion Server. The Ad Insertion Server can only tell them that the ad was received (or not received) and stitched into the manifest (or not). But there is nothing which indicates whether the ad actually played to the viewer.

The solution to this actually lies in the client!

Solving the Server Issues With a Player Solution

At the heart of understanding the ad experience, and, more importantly, determining ad playback and if it counts towards a contractual view or impression, is the client. Datazoom can already collect a variety of client-side data elements to help in ad tracking. But we have recently announced client-side data collection specifically for SSAI.

As you can see in the demo video, there are a number of ways this new capability can improve ad data for operators employing SSAI:

Benefit Description Applicable Client-side Data Points
Visibility into ad delivery See exactly where and when ads are being delivered, which can make it easier to optimize ad delivery and troubleshoot issues.
  • device_type
  • user_agent
  • os
  • custom_metadata
Measuring viewability Data gathered about what ads were actually viewed, can only be gathered at the client. When collected with Datazoom, this data can be married with the data from the server (using an ad ID), in a single dashboard (such as a Looker Block) to provide true measurement of ad views.
  • player_viewable
  • player_viewable_percent
Accurate ad impressions tracking Instead of relying on tracking from the server, ad impressions and other key metrics can be tracked with parity to CSAI.
  • ad_impression
  • ad_id (coupled with enrichment)
End-to-end measurement Client-side tracking removes limitations on the ability to measure the entire ad delivery process, from ad insertion to ad delivery on the client-side, which can make it easier to understand the full user experience.
  • Ad_session_id encompassing the entire event stream

With Datazoom’s new beta release, our customers can capture verified impressions of users playing video ads embedded/inserted within a live or on-demand video stream from our SDKs and libraries.

Improving SSAI Targeting With More Client Data

Using client-side data to augment SSAI for better measurement also has another benefit: improving SSAI ad delivery. One of the main arguments for CSAI is for contextualization. There is a host of data which can be gathered from the client and used to better target ads. This can, ultimately, help increase the value of ad placement for the operator. This new feature from Datazoom provides a unique way to add that same value to ads delivered through SSAI. For example, device-level data, such as IP address and device type, can be fed from client to SSAI Decisioning Server, where SSAI occurs.

As you can see in the illustration above, by connecting SSAI and client-side ad data, operators can now see, in near real-time, a user event stream that shows exactly when an ad break starts, the ad request is made, the impression is recorded, and how long a user sticks around before click the ad_skip button. Each of those events are decorated with a number of dimensions for one to determine where ads are working and where they are not.

CSAI Is No Longer The Clear Winner

The decision of CSAI over SSAI has long been driven by the prospects of personalization and the increase in the value of each impression. But with this new Datazoom feature, that tradeoff no longer needs to happen. Streaming operators can choose SSAI to avoid ad-blockers, for example, but still get access to valuable client-side data which can be used to target ads before they are stitched into the final stream.

Interested in seeing this in action? Reach out to Datazoom today to schedule a demo.


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