Video Errors 101 & How to Resolve Them

Post on April 23, 2019 by Vikash Chaturvedi

Vikash Chaturvedi
Vikash Chaturvedi Senior Director, Solutions Engineering

Video has become an important part of global business strategies because of the innate benefits it offers as a marketing channel, including engagement, trust building and improved conversion rates. As consumers spend an increasing amount of time with digital video content across devices, the advertising ecosystem, as a whole, is adapting to accommodate the increased interest and budgets to this channel.

We are seeing content producers creating engaging video creatives in response to the growing demand which, in turn, is creating a robust, scaled advertising environment. It is in the publishers’ best interest to capitalize on this trend by providing an optimal viewable environment – resulting in higher CPMs. At the same time, it is recommended agencies and advertisers continue to focus on protecting brand reputation by blocking unsafe impressions for their brands.

Per eMarketer, the US video advertising market, comprised of both TV and digital video, is expected to grow from $91 billion in 2018 to $127 billion in 2023. As US video advertising continues to scale, it’s more important than ever for marketers, publishers and buyers to follow best practices for video advertising.

Current Challenges for Video in Ad Tech

As the video ad tech ecosystem has matured, so has the problem of lost ad impressions. One key contributor to this problem is the video ad tech infrastructure based on VPAID tag performing ad auctions on the client-side, within the publisher’s video player. This can lead to delayed loading speeds and ads timing out — ultimately resulting in lost ad impressions.

It is very important for buyers to not lose out on any of the video ad serving opportunities due to errors or broken creative. Video ads can fail to serve for a variety of reasons including incompatibility with the video player, latency, non-secure creatives, misconfigured campaigns on the DSP, serving VPAID measurement (i.e. Moat, IAS, etc.) in an environment that does not support it, and more.  The subsequent video creative errors result in a poor experience for publishers, buyers and the user. For a detailed list of VAST video ad error codes, along with the causes and possible solutions, please refer IAB doc IAB VAST error codes.

To avoid lost impressions, we are going to discuss the common reasons why video players throw different errors and their respective solutions.

Why Video Creative Breaks

VAST error codes enable the player to communicate back to the ad server, exchanges, SSPs, and DSPs to explain why a video tag didn’t serve an impression. This is helpful to pinpoint and resolve issues when you understand the exact error code.

We will spend some time here talking about the most common VAST errors buyers see and possible resolutions:

  • XML Parsing Error (Code 100): This often occurs when the buyer’s response is malformed, or due to an invalid XML code or a redirect URL that fails to resolve successfully.

CORRECTION: Buyers need to verify that the VAST XML is correctly formatted and contains all the required elements and attributes in it to address this error. 

  • Timeout of VAST URI (Error 301): This error indicates that a URI within the VAST or VPAID creative timed out. This could be due to errors on requests, such as an invalid or unreachable URI, or security exceptions related to HTTP/HTTPS. The most common reason for Error 301 is a poor network connection or heavy latency.

CORRECTION: First, check the URI within the VAST/VPAID creative to make sure that it is valid and reachable. Next, check the timeout limit of your player to ensure that this isn’t being reached. Finally, buyers should make sure their VAST URI is HTTPS as this can sometimes cause errors on HTTP sites.

  • Wrapper Limit Reached (Code 302): This error happens when the wrapper limit defined by the player is reached. Either too many wrapper responses are received without an inline response, a circular loop of daisy chaining exists (one network bouncing to another and another), or due to too many empty VAST responses.

CORRECTION: Buyers should work with their publisher or SSP to increase the wrapper limit of the player to accommodate these creatives. It is also helpful to verify that any VAST redirects are not redirecting again to another network. When too many redirects are called from a video player before a valid MediaFile is returned, the player might abort the ad request.

  • Timeout of Media File URI (Error 402): This particular error is caused by the ad creative taking longer to load than your current timeout setting. It is directly related to the type or size of media file used within the VAST or VPAID ad unit. The error implies that the file is either too large, the bitrate is too high, or it is incompatible with the platform on which it is attempting to render.

CORRECTION: Try increasing the request timeout, optimizing the publisher’s website to increase load speed, and most importantly, setting bitrate and size restrictions on creatives serving on mobile.

  • General VPAID Error (Error 901): This is the most generic of all VAST error codes as it can be caused by a plethora of issues. For example, there may be a VPAID creative inside a VPAID wrapper, which may cause unacceptable latency. The player may not correctly check that the mime type of the VPAID is acceptable.

CORRECTION: Ensure VAST responses that return Javascript VPAID wrappers from IAS/DV/MOAT include an MP4 asset as a fallback mechanism for the player. Alternatively, make sure that the vendor’s VPAID is not aborting playback. Also, be careful to not bid on impressions without a determined advertiser/buyer or attempt to initiate a client-side resale.

Additional Video Best Practices

As a best practice, in addition to troubleshooting video errors based on the VAST error code, we recommend buyers proactively work with their ad servers, DSPs, and SSPs to get regular reporting of the creatives with high error rates to identify the root causes. We also recommend DSPs scan all creatives to block and resolve specific issues, as this will directly impact their win-rates and efficiency of video buying.

Buyers should also ensure that the campaign end date on their DSP is the same as in the ad server to avoid generating empty VAST errors. In other words, the third-party video tag set up in the DSP should have a valid running creative in the agency’s ad server.

Additionally, buyers should not expect VPAID to run on most mobile app impressions, since most of mobile app inventory does not support VPAID. This includes VPAID tags from Moat, IAS, and other vendors.

DSPs and buyers should make sure their creatives have multiple media files with varying bitrates so the video player can choose the best one for different network connection speeds.

Finally, buyers should test their VPAID creatives on slow, medium, and strong network connections on both mobile web and desktop web environments to make sure the creatives load within acceptable timeout settings for different video players (1-2 seconds). Video players usually have waterfall tags set up so more than one ad may have already attempted to play before your ad. Any delays in your creative may degrade the user’s experience or reach timeout limits.

What’s Next?

PubMatic is committed to making video advertising experiences better for publishers and buyers. Through technology and the support of adoption of industry standards, we aim to deliver innovative solutions, improved campaign ROI for advertisers and a cleaner advertising ecosystem. To learn more about our video products, check out our solutions page or contact us.