Video Guide: VAST Banner Creation

Read Time: 6 minutes

VAST ads are a whole different beast from the other banners, which is why we’ve decided to dedicate an entire video to them. I’ll first go over what VAST is, and then move into the creation of a VAST banner, how to check a VAST banner, and some best practices you’ll want to keep in mind.

VAST is an acronym that stands for Video Ad Serving Template. It is an industry standard created by the IAB to make video ad delivery, usually pre-roll or post-roll ads, easier to implement across different services. VAST includes calls for certain events, the ability to pass in multiple sources, customization options, and a whole bunch of technical information that allows services like AdButler to generate one VAST tag that works across an entire industry of video players. 

VAST is different but similar to other standards like VPAID, and AdButler is currently VAST 2.0 compatible.

To create a VAST banner in AdButler you first need to create a special VAST zone within your publisher of choice. A VAST zone does not need any dimensions, just a name, as the size of the video depends on the player. Once your zone is created, it has the same features as any other banner zone. You can see a snapshot of it’s performance, change the properties, assign banners and campaigns, and grab the zone tags.

The actual creation of a VAST banner, is slightly more complicated than a normal banner. Although we give the banner a name and destination link, there are also a lot more things to consider. I’ll be moving through the six tabs up top, and going over what each one is.

The first one, Summary, gives us the technical details of the VAST banner, including the video, the nonlinear media we’re passing along, and any companion ads. It’s also where we can add a Wrapper Ad, which would be another VAST tag, sort of how custom HTML banners are used for third-party tags.

We upload the actual VAST banner under the linear Media tab. Here, we can set the source of the file, whether it’s another host or AdButler’s own library, and set the specifications of the banner if it’s hosted somewhere else. We can also hit the Add Media File option to add multiple versions of the same banner, which we’ll talk about it a bit.

Once we’ve chosen the source, we can make a few changes to the delivery options, like whether we want the ad to be skippable and when, if we want to pass along any VAST parameters, and if we want the parameters to be encoded. Parameters are a higher level feature, and you probably won’t be messing with them.

As well, if we’re linking to an external host, we can also set the duration of the ad.

Nonlinear Media is where we add any overlay banners that we want to appear with the video. You can set the type of banner, whether it’s a picture or a piece of code, and the dimensions of the media. As with the video source, you can either use an external host or Adbutler’s library to host the image banners.

Under advanced options, we can find scheduling options for the nonlinear media. Here we can play with responsiveness, the duration, and, once again, the passing along of ad parameters. Finally, at the bottom here, we can add additional banners to show. Please keep in mind that the VAST tag will move through these banners linearly, so the players will usually only move onto the second banner if the first can’t display for whatever reason.

A Companion Ad is a normal banner that is served on the page in conjunction with the VAST response. The important difference between a companion ad and a nonlinear ad is the placement. A companion Ad is served outside of the video player as an actual part of the page. Generally the content has something to do with the VAST video, but it doesn’t have to.

Creating a companion ad is similar to creating a nonlinear one. The main difference is adding a destination URL during creation, as well as some more advanced features under the advanced options.

Tracking Events are the bread and butter of VAST. There are a whole bunch of them and they are all tied to certain actions, such as muting and pausing. They are all coded into the VAST tag and tracked by AdButler in our statistics. If you want to track them in a separate service, all you need to do is select the event, and then enter in the URL you want to ping if they happen.

Finally, the scheduling tab allows you to change the assignment details of the banner or campaign. All of these settings work the same as with a normal banner, so check out our previous video to get a sense of that. Please note, though, that due to the nature of VAST there are some features we cannot offer that normal banners have access to.

Once you’ve configured all these settings, hit save at the bottom, and you’re good to go. If you grab the zone tags, you can then place them into your favourite VAST enabled video player and they will start serving. We always recommend testing your tags, though, and the Google Video Suite Inspector is a great tool for that. All you need to do is plop your VAST tag into the field, hit test ad, and everything should start running smoothly.

So that is how to create a VAST banner in AdButler. Now, there are some best practices that I quickly want to outline while I still have you here.

The first one is to upload your video file in as many different configurations as you can. This is because some devices, and some video players, can only work with certain files. We recommend at least two different file types, usually Flash and mp4, but in a perfect world, you would upload all variations you can.

The second thing to keep in mind with VAST is to know what player you’re working with. Although all VAST responses are standardized, video players are not, and some players out there do not support certain features or file types. Knowing the player you’re working with will save you a lot of time. For instance, you don’t want to configure companion banners if the player does not support them.

The third recommendation is to keep your file names compatible. Some players out there do not support certain characters in file names so try and keep it simple.

And now you’re off to the races! Good luck with VAST, it’s a really fun, really powerful tool.

Liam Workman


Liam is an account manager and blog king at SparkLit, the SaaS company behind AdButler and FourEyes. He loves rock climbing, hiking, coding, and being your friend.