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Selling video ads? Standardize first

The Interactive Advertising Bureau proposes a new standard for digital video commercials, hoping to jump-start the $21 billion online ad market.

A Web advertising trade group has proposed a new technology standard for digital video commercials so that the fledgling--and potentially lucrative--form of advertising can get off the ground.

The Interactive Advertising Bureau, which represents the $21 billion online ad market, said Thursday that it has proposed a new communication standard for digital video ads called VAST, or Digital Video Ad Serving Template. If adopted by the industry, the standard would establish a common protocol between the various video players and video ad networks on the Web. That way, advertisers would be able to insert a commercial onto YouTube, without having to reformat it for Yahoo or, for example.

Video advertising is thought to be the next big growth opportunity for Web publishers because it's basically a repurposed form of television advertising, or the high end of brand advertising. That multibillion-dollar market is particularly exciting for Web publishers, which are accustomed to selling ads for much lower rates than television.

But video advertising is still in its early days. Sites like YouTube certainly have enough advertising inventory, but major brand advertisers have yet to develop enough material to fill the slots. It's a complicated and labor-intensive act to cut a commercial, and many advertisers still believe they don't get as much bang for the buck on the Web as they do with TV commercials. The IAB's new standard is designed to jump-start this business by making it easier to cut one video and run it on multiple sites with ease.

Google, parent company of YouTube, is apparently onboard with the idea. A Google advertising product manager, Ari Paparo, said in a statement: "VAST allows for standardized communication between ad servers and players, which is essential as more and more marketers embrace digital video...and publishers wish to maximize yield on their video inventory."

The IAB has opened the standard to public comment until September 10.