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Don't Sleep on Programmatic Video Advertising: Guide on Video DSPs, Ad Tags, and Campaign Setup

Jun 04, 202412 min read
Stepan Krokhmal
Stepan Krokhmal, AdTech Writer
Programmatic Video Advertising Moment

Reading ads is boring; watching them is much more fun! The chemistry behind our monkey brains has led video to become the most dominant entertainment channel of all. And where there is an opportunity to capitalize on the human psyche – there is advertising😉

But there’s no point in discussing “engagement” and “attention spans”; you probably already know about the infinite growth of video; we all have Reels and TikToks these days.

Instead, let’s discuss why people search for a “DSP video,” what the peculiarities behind programmatic advertising are, and how to harness its power.

What Is Video DSP?

First of all, the elephant in the room.

A demand-side platform is an ad tech solution that allows automatic ad buying and campaign management.

It’s part of the programmatic ad tech solutions, the invaluable tool for advertisers/ad agencies/ad networks, and the regular topic on our blog.

Seriously, if you’re completely clueless about the tech, we already have like 6 articles on different aspects of demand-side platforms, check them out.

What’s so peculiar about the term “video DSP”? Unfortunately, for resources that base their SEO on user inexperience, there is technically no such thing as video DSP.

A demand-side platform is a tool for buying every media type. Depending on the provider, a DSP grants advertisers a variety of ad traffic starting from native and display, ending with mobile and video. It just so happens that the latter is the main point of today’s discussion.

What Are the Examples of Video DSPs?

But if you like the term (we do), what could be considered as a video DSP? There are vendors that specialize in video ad formats above all else and make it their main selling point. Examples of DSPs would include:

  • TargetVideo;
  • Amazon Ads;
  • Display Video 360;
  • Targetoo;
  • Epom WL DSP.
Best Video DSPs Examples

What Is Programmatic Video Advertising?

Now, no matter which DSP caught your eye, it’s still a programmatic video advertising platform.

As defined by IAB, programmatic is a technology that automates the process of buying and selling ads.

In our case, “ads” are video ad placements. The format is the only variable; just like with DSPs and video DSPs, programmatic advertising doesn’t specifically involve video ads. As an advertiser, you can purchase whatever ad format is available.

Speaking of which, let’s explain how the whole thing works in more detail. Programmatic video advertising is similar to a good old-fashioned auction. Except:

  • The whole process happens in 100 milliseconds while the user’s page is loading;
  • The purchase/selling happens automatically. You just set the parameters of the ad creative, the desired price of purchase, and go.

What Do You Use for Programmatic Video Advertising?

Once again, we have a bunch of articles on the programmatic tech stack (including dsp vs ssp) already, so since it’s not the primary topic this time, we’ll make it short.

  • Demand-side platform / DSP

The tool for buying ad placements and campaign management. The main users are the advertisers, ad agencies, and ad networks.

  • Supply-side platform / SSP

The tool for selling ad placements and ad inventory optimization. Basically, an SSP is very much the same as a DSP, but it serves the supply side of programmatic video advertising – publishers, and sometimes ad networks.

  • Ad Exchange

This is the middle ground between the supply and demand sides of programmatic. Think of it as a marketplace, the eBay of sorts, where the DSPs and SSPs connect to conduct business. The ad exchange allows far more than just traditional “open” programmatic auctions, but we’re not here to discuss that today.

How Does Programmatic Video Advertising Work?

Programmatic is powered by a protocol called real-time bidding / RTB. The name is pretty self-explanatory: RTB helps to make the programmatic deal as fast and transparent as possible.

Now that you know every player in the programmatic auction, it’s time for our regular explanation of how it works. Let’s say you’re an advertiser who wants to buy an in-banner auto-play (later on these terms) video ad placement:

  1. The user clicks on the site and the RTB auction triggers.
  2. The site sends an ad request to the publisher’s platform (SSP) if there’s an opportunity to show this visitor an ad.
  3. The SSP collects the visitor’s data and analyzes whether there is suitable ad space. Let’s assume the publisher needs to fill a medium rectangle ad slot.
  4. The ad exchange helps to send this data to DSPs who want to place a medium rectangle ad.
  5. Based on the pre-set targeting options, the programmatic DSPs bid on impressions.
  6. Three hypothetical advertisers have CPMs of $3.50, $4.00, and $3.70. Ad exchange has determined the second to be the highest CPM, so their bid wins and has an ad placement on the publisher’s website.
How Video DSPs Auction Works

How Does Video Ad Serving Work?

We could just leave you with the programmatic basics, but you’ve probably clicked so far through the Google search page to gain something deeper.

Video ad serving has specifics in the way it’s served. For example, the protocols and the API frameworks are completely unique in the realm of ad formats.

“Why would I need all these tech specs? Don’t I already know what programmatic video advertising is about?” – The answer is – all these settings are going to matter when we show you how to set up a video campaign. The more you know about that, the more accurate setup you have, which will most likely result in higher profits.

What Is VAST?

Video Ad Serving Template /VAST is a video protocol that is the basis of modern video ad delivery. It is responsible for 90% of the video ads you see online, and it came as a successor to Digital Audio Ad Serving Template / DAAST. The latter was discontinued by IAB, but some DSPs (like ours) still support it.

Programmatic Video Advertising Tags

From a technical point of view, VAST is an XML schema that structures different ad tags that serve ads to video players. It’s not as complex as it sounds, though. VAST is a protocol containing metadata about ads. Its main goal is to transfer this data to the video player from the first-party ad server.

The ad metadata includes:

  • Media file with the ad creative
  • Impression tracker;
  • Ad format data;

Up until this point, there have been four versions of VAST. You’d think this doesn’t matter, but it does. Because the VAST supported by your publisher is the VAST you’re going to work around, so here’s a list of VAST versions and what’s up with each.

VAST Versions Comparison Table

How Does VAST Work?

Without further notice, here’s how it works:

Step # 1. Request. The video player calls an ad server for an ad.

Step # 2. Response. The ad server gets the ad request and responds with a media file and a tracking URL.

Step # 3. Tracking. Once the main video triggers, the video player launches the impression tracking URL.

VAST Algorithm

Side note! First-party ad server is the publisher’s ad server, third-party ad server is the one for advertisers. The former is used not only for direct deals (alternative to programmatic where ad sales happen “manually”), but for hosting and serving ads. In this case, a first-party ad server is a tool for serving any content, including ads, not for selling ad placements, so don’t get confused!

What Are API Frameworks in Programmatic Video Advertising?

API frameworks are the .exe ad units within the VAST XMLs that allow ads to be served better, faster, and more transparent.

API Framework Selection Screen

You see, VAST has a lot of limitations while the market demands fresher ways of advertising to the users all the time. That’s why other frameworks built upon VAST exist. The most widespread are, of course:


The most well-known video ad-serving tool after VAST is, of course, Video Player Ad Interface Definition / VPAID. This API extends upon the functionality in some meaningful ways; the most notable changes are:

  • Support of interactive elements;
  • Ad resizing;
  • Auto-resume of content after the ad is played;
  • Override if the ad loads for too long;

Currently there are two versions of VPAID API. The only difference worth noting is that the latest version supports ad resizing.

Despite the global dominance in the field, VPAID has its issues. Firstly, its designed to serve as a main priority and track as a second. As a result, interactive VPAID ads reach up to 30% of rendering failure rate.

Secondly, VPAID is vulnerable to data leaks if served through old versions of VAST.


SIMID and OMID are the IAB’s attempts to create a viable alternative to the discontinued VPAID. Secure Interactive Media Interface Definition is more of a publisher’s tool; it gives the playback control to the video player to minimize errors. As a result, compared to VPAID it has:

  • Better error handling;
  • Better data security;
  • Better playback stability;

Open Measurement Interface Definition is bound to help on the advertiser’s side. How exactly? It makes sure that the placed ads only have access to the video player instead of the whole page. The resulting benefits are the same as SIMID.

Why do we pay so little attention to these chad-versions of regular VPAID? It’s simple – they never got the adoption rates to make them worth more text. The industry is accepting both protocols veeeeryyy slowly, and most video DSPs don’t even have their support by default.


Java, Swift, C#, Kotlin, and a bunch of SDKs – making video playback possible on all of these would be a pain without some unified API for mobile devices. Luckily, there are two of them!

Mobile Rich Media Ad Interface Dimension is a “write once, run anywhere” type of standard. It’s a great solution for advertisers who wish to serve ads on all mobile devices without having to take every conceivable error in mind.

Open Rich Media Mobile Advertising is another less popular API for serving rich media on mobiles. The cool thing is that ORMMA completely integrates MRAID, which means that you don’t have to choose between the two. What’s the point of ORMMA then? It is mostly focused towards apps written in JavaScript and works better with them.

Purpose Build the interactive ads support, ad override, and ad resizing upon VAST Improve upon VPAID by giving the playback control to the video player Improve upon VPAID by limiting ad placement access to the page Be a universal API for mobile ad placements Be a universal API for mobile ad placements written in JavaScript
Latest version 2.0 1.1.0 1.4 3.0 1.0

What Are Programmatic Video Types?

There is just one stop before we finally reach the campaign setup part, and its name is video types. Now, technically, there are two types of served video ads:

  • Instream

According to what IAB states in their latest guidelines, instream video is the type of video ad that plays with the sound on and is served inside the video player. When the instream ad launches, the main video player stops, yes just like on YouTube.

  • Outstream

Outstreams are the videos that live outside the main video player. They autoplay on mute as the user scrolls through a website and don’t require an HTML5 video player.

Creative Attributes Selection Screen

Now, to be honest with you, there are at least a dozen more video creative characteristics that you’ll meet when setting up your campaign. Even the names “outstream” and “instream” aren’t always used as characteristics. Instead, you’ll have something like “can be skipped” (making them outstream) or “pre-roll” (usually in-stream).

The point is that it all depends on your DSP. Adjust to the tool in hand and leave other specifics for nerds (a bold claim after flooding you with API and ad-serving tags).

How to Set Up a Programmatic Video Advertising Campaign in Epom White-label DSP?

Obviously, we’ll make a tutorial using the demo version of Epom White-Label DSP. The whole process takes about 3-4 minutes and is quite intuitive. However, that’s when all prior knowledge becomes really useful, so we can’t skip it.

Part 1. Campaign Setup

  1. The campaign setup is universal for any ad format. Click “Create New Campaign” in the “Campaigns” tab.
Create a New Campaign
  1. Click “Video” in the creative type selection screen.
Choose the Creative Type
  1. Name your campaign, choose the desired bid price, ads metrics, and flight dates, and play around with the toggles.
Set up a New Campaign
  1. The targeting setup is very individual. We chose the most basic options, but click on every tab to see what’s best for you.
Choose the Targeting Options
  1. The only obligatory tab in this tab is the “Max Bid Price.” If you don’t know what you’re doing, just leave it as default.
Set up Optimization Parameters

Part 2. Creative Setup

  1. Name your creative, and set the preferred bid pricing.
Choose the Name for Your Creative
  1. Now it's time for the creative. We already have an uploaded short video advertising Commando beard care soap. Upload your own materials here.
Upload and Set Up the Video Creative
  1. The target URL is going to be a random, talented YouTube artist since Commando (unfortunately) didn’t pay us for native promotion.

    The most peculiar tab here is creative settings. As mentioned, there’s no “outstream” option here, but since we want the user to choose whether to mute the ad, we select this one. There are many more attributes in this tab; check for yourself.

    The category was picked at random; the resource is static since the video won’t change from request to request.
Change Video Settings for the Ad
  1. Now for the other most important tabs. Everything finally clicks, and you understand why we’ve been explaining video tags and protocols so thoroughly. This time, let’s choose the latest VAST and VPAID versions.

    By the way, you can also enable “Rewarded” (the user gets a reward upon clicking on your ad) and “Interstitial” (the ad opens in full screen) if the connected SSPs allow for it.
Set Up Additional Parameters
  1. After clicking “Save” a bunch of times, your campaign is finally set. Return to the “Campaigns” tab and click on the campaign name. From here, you can change the settings of everything we’ve mentioned so far. Enjoy!
Review Your Campaign Settings


You probably didn’t come for this massive avalanche of information on programmatic video advertising, but here we are.

We sincerely hope that at least some parts of this article have cemented in the backrooms of your mind and that you’ll use them to become the better version of your advertiser-self.

And since you already know how to set up a video campaign in the Epom WL DSP, why not try it for yourself? The demo is free for 14 days, so have a go!

Use the white-label programmatic video advertising tools with Epom DSP!

Check for free

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