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What are VAST Tags And How Do You Optimize Them? (2024 Updated)

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Let’s acknowledge the undeniable significance of video advertising in the expansion strategies of modern businesses. Recent research predicts a substantial surge in video advertising expenses, projecting an impressive climb from $176.6 billion in 2023 to an estimated $229.8 billion by 2027.

In the pursuit of boosting revenue, many advertisers are turning to programmatic video advertising as a key driver. For those aiming to precisely target their audience with video ads at the optimal time and across diverse devices, understanding VAST tags is compulsory. Let’s figure out what is VAST tags and how you can optimize them for the maximal revenue. 

What is a VAST tag?

The Video Ad Serving Template, or VAST was developed by the IAB as a framework to embed third-party video ads into a video stream. The VAST framework includes a standardized structure that allows advertisers to serve ads across multiple ad inventories and various video ad players.

In general, A VAST tag is an ad script generated by ad servers that allow ad servers to communicate directly with video players. Think of a VAST tag as a tiny piece of code, written in a language called XML markup schema, that sits on a publisher’s website where ads are shown. This code makes sure ads appear smoothly.

Inside the VAST tag, there are details about the ad, such as what type of ad or the dimension the ad should be. These details are like a set of rules to guarantee the video ad will play as expected.  

Integral Elements of a VAST tag

There are three key elements that all VAST tag contains:

  • Media file: Each VAST tag includes a link to the media file holding the ad creative. It points to the URL where the media file can be downloaded or gives attributes to create a link to the ad server. Sometimes, it delivers specific details, and a link to the ad server is made for the creative part of the ad.
  • Video format: The VAST tag also informs the video player what kind of video ad it is, such as a flash or MP4 video. This info is handy for the video player to know the right video format needed to play the ad smoothly.
  • Tracking: Keeping an eye on how ads are doing is super important in video advertising. Inside the VAST tag, there’s usually a web link to a resource in the ad server. This link has a tracking pixel, like a tiny dot, that counts how many times the ad is seen. It also gathers other important info so the advertiser can figure out how well the video ad is working.

Besides these three main parts, publishers can add more attributes to their tags. These extra options help decide how an ad will look, and they can include things like:

  • What kind of ad it is (pre-roll or mid-roll).
  • How long the video ads are
  • The dimensions/size of the ads

Although it’s very straightforward to create a VAST tag, there are several ways to do it:

  • Using Google Ad Manager: Google takes the lead when it comes to creating VAST tags for ads. They make the whole process easy and support both HTTP and HTTPS URLs.

gam vast tag

  • Using third-party tools: There are various VAST tag generators to support necessary VAST specifications. 
  • Manually: While you can create your ad tags manually without using GAM and third-party tools, this method is not recommended as it may contain typos or mistakes that can affect the VAST tag performance. 


VAST tag examples

Here’s the full example of a VAST tag, packed with elements like unviewed_position_start, ciu_szs, and gdfp_req. These elements set the stage for video delayed impressions, lay out the sizes for companion ads, and signal that the user is in the Ad Manager schema.

vast tag example

But wait, there’s more! The tag also goes with extra elements like impression tracking pixels, creative assets for the ad, and companion ads to ensure the ad experience is top-notch.

How does a VAST tag operate?

vast tag operation

As demonstrated in the picture, a VAST tag operates on three separated processes for ad insertion:

  • VAST Request

Here’s how the process kicks off: The video player sends a request to the ad server asking for the video ad. This request spills contain information about available ad slots, what ad type it is, and targeting criteria.

  • VAST Inline Response

When the ad server receives the request, it quickly sends an inline response right back to the video player. This response packs the video file needed to show the ad and URLs to track how the ad is performing.

  • URL Tracking 

After the video has been played, the video player hits the go button on those tracking URLs (or tracking pixels). This is when the recording starts, keeping tabs on how many times that particular video was seen.

Tips for optimizing VAST tags

Optimizing VAST ads can help you maximize your video advertising revenue. Follow these tips to make sure your VAST tags are running smoothly:

  • Double-check your VAST tags to make sure they’re free of typos before implementation. 
  • As a golden rule, craft unique ad codes for each website to avoid duplicates.
  • If you’re running different ad formats at the same time, consider A/B testing with clicks and views to see how they play together and fine-tune your strategy for optimal results.

Wrapping Up

VAST tag is a real-time saver for advertisers and publishers by preventing technical issues with a smooth, one-way talk between ad servers and video players. They gather all the tracking info, giving everyone involved a big-picture view of how the ad is doing. 

All in all, VAST tags not only streamline the ad game but also bring clarity to the performance metrics. So, whether you’re an advertiser or a publisher, embracing VAST tags is like having a trusty ally, making the ad journey smoother and more insightful. 

Give it a go, and let the simplified communication and comprehensive tracking elevate your advertising experience with Premium Ads. We are a Google Certified Publishing Partner with 7+ years of experience in the adtech & ad monetization industry. Hundreds of publishers are maximizing their ad revenue with us, and you could be one of them! Talk to us today, and let’s bring your ad revenue to the next level. 


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