There are numerous areas in the mobile ad process where it can fail, and it can be difficult to track down the cause of the failure without robust error logging and reporting. The IAB has included error notification in several specifications (VAST, VPAID, etc.), but few video players, platforms or companies have implemented them, leaving publishers and advertisers alike to stumble around looking for a cause of the failure.

Error logging is usually not a feature that is included in the initial release of a product. In the rush to get it to market, error logging and reporting is brushed aside and is only added later when the need for it arises. The truth is error logging and reporting is an essential feature and is vital to building a robust and sustainable mobile ad platform.

The mobile ad industry is still in its infancy, and many ad platforms were released without proper error detection and notification based on the assumption that publishers and advertisers are following the standards so few errors would occur. Since many of the mobile standards are still new, they have been implemented in various ways so errors abound. For instance, the VAST can be invalid, or missing required elements or contains media file types that are incompatible with mobile devices. If proper error detection and logging is in place then these failures can be detected, but most of the time there is nothing in place to catch them so the video player does not display the video and publishers and advertisers are left to wonder why their ads are not playing.

Video players use different VAST parsers and some may be more lenient than others when it comes to validating the VAST. Some may adhere strictly to the VAST standards and if they are not met completely the ad will not play, while others may be less restrictive and still play certain VAST even if some required elements are not present.

As the mobile industry evolves it is becoming evident that there can be several points of failure:

  • ad server – if the ad server does any VAST validation
  • SDK – if the SDK does any VAST validation
  • VAST parser/video player – if the VAST fails to validate

In order to properly detect and report errors, error logging needs to be added at each of these points of failure. Once that is in place an ad platform is able to better identify the cause of failures and work with advertisers and publishers to correct them. These corrections may include changing the VAST to include missing elements or sending through the correct media file type.

Once an ad platform has this type of reporting in place, they are in a much better position to assist publishers and advertisers in order to maximize their fill and revenue.