Server-Side Vs Client-Side Ad Insertion: What’s The Difference?

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In the world of content aggregation, ad personalization has emerged as the go-to strategy for maximising revenue and driving growth in online video monetization platforms. The primary objective is to attract and expand the subscriber base by seamlessly integrating ads into videos using two methods: client-side ad insertion (CSAI) and server-side ad insertion (SSAI). How to Create OTT Platform & OTT provider in India

Ad personalization offers numerous opportunities to connect with individual viewers in various ways. Audiences can consume content for free by watching ads instead of paying or subscribing to the service. This approach has become a quest for broadcasters, pay TV operators, content programmers, and video providers to meet the diverse needs of their businesses and target audiences.

According to Statista, in 2021, 18% of respondents in North America opted for ad-supported video-on-demand services other than YouTube, such as Facebook Watch and Twitch.

Understanding CSAI: Client-Side Ad Insertion CSAI involves delivering ads to devices like desktops, mobiles, connected TVs, and gaming consoles. When the video player reaches specific ad markers in the stream or manifest file (HLS/DASH), it requests the ad server to stream an advertisement. How to Create OTT Platform

Upon receiving the player’s request, the ad server responds with a strategically chosen ad based on data collected from campaigns and audience preferences. The video player then pauses the content to play the ad, and once it finishes, the content or video playback resumes. The client is responsible for reporting ad performance through various metrics and dimensions, including VAST (ad metadata), VMAP (ad timing), VPAID/SIMID (interactive ads), and OMID (viewability measurements).

How Does Client-Side Ad Insertion Work? Let’s delve into the workings of CSAI. Initially, the player downloads the file from the content delivery network (CDN) before video playback begins. For example, in a pre-roll ad, the ad plays before the video starts.

When the video player reaches an ad marker, it makes an API call to the ad server, requesting an ad for playback. The ad insertion server typically responds with a VAST XML that contains data about the ad, its media, and tracking information.

The video player utilises the VAST tag to play back the ad, after which it continues playing the video stream. Streaming platforms often embed their video players with SDK support provided by third-party ad services. These SDKs monitor and playback position, completion rates, errors, and report this data back to servers regularly.

Introducing SSAI: Server-Side Ad Insertion SSAI, also known as server-side ad insertion, involves stitching ads directly into the video stream on the server side rather than the client/player side, distinguishing it from CSAI. We are OTT provider in India

SSAI offers its own advantages and disadvantages, which we will explore in the following sections. One key advantage is that client devices no longer make server calls to fetch ads, making it difficult for ad blockers to block ads inserted through SSAI. Additionally, SSAI is highly functional when viewer data is sent with the request, enabling personalized ad selection from third-party ad servers.

How Does Server-Side Ad Insertion Work? Server-side ad insertion combines multiple functionalities, including manifest manipulation, ad server communication, and ad bitrate with resolution normalisation.

Manifest manipulation involves personalizing the video experience for each viewer by creating a playlist-like manifest file that controls the playback order of video and audio segments.

Ad servers store and serve advertisements on online web pages, facilitating ad server communication and providing analytical insights into ad performance.

Video bitrate represents the number of bits of video information transmitted per second, typically measured in kilobits or megabits per second. Bitrate needs to be controlled during video compression to ensure optimal playback.

Video resolution plays a crucial role in how the user perceives the content. Most video players adjust to the device’s screen resolution or viewing window.

All these processes occur on the server side before presenting a manifest to clients. SSAI is also referred to as dynamic ad insertion or ad stitching.

CSAI vs. SSAI: Understanding the Differences In general, SSAI incurs higher costs compared to CSAI but offers effective results in terms of ad impressions. CSAI integration may encounter issues with ad blockers, leading to errors on the client side, timeouts during ad loading, or errors with VPAID ads.

Let’s examine the similarities and differences between CSAI and SSAI in more detail:

Pros of CSAI:

  • Enables rich ad experiences with surveys, click-throughs, overlays, and transitional ad serving technologies.
  • Easy setup and detailed tracking capabilities.
  • Allows highly personalized ads to be served.
  • Gives publishers and advertisers access to abundant ad-tracking data.

Cons of CSAI:

  • Ad stitching in CSAI may cause frame drops in videos, affecting the viewing experience.
  • Latency can be induced as the player requests ads from the server.
  • Live streaming can be challenging to handle seamlessly.

Pros of SSAI:

  • Delivers a broadcast-like ad experience by stitching ads directly into the video stream.
  • Ad-blockers have a harder time blocking ads inserted through SSAI.
  • Can handle varying bandwidth conditions for smooth playback.

Cons of SSAI:

  • Ad-blockers may block the origin of ad providers, preventing end-users from viewing the ads.
  • Spoofing risks exist with the data sent from end-devices to ad-servers.
  • Lower degree of ad personalization compared to CSAI.
  • Manifest caching issues may arise, affecting caching services’ efficiency.

Choosing between CSAI and SSAI depends on individual requirements. CSAI offers greater control over the ad experience and supports various ad formats but may suffer from latency concerns. SSAI provides a hassle-free viewing experience with no buffering or latency issues and is more scalable but may be less flexible in terms of ad format support.

Conclusion The ability to personalize viewing experiences has become a crucial criterion in the online TV industry. To meet customer expectations and monetize content effectively, both CSAI and SSAI offer dynamic ad insertion methods. Ad servers and ad networks provide tracking, trafficking, and analytics solutions for advertisers and publishers, targeting ads based on user profiles, audience behavior, context, and more.

Choosing the right ad insertion method depends on factors such as control, scalability, ad format support, and website traffic. By making an informed decision and implementing the appropriate solution, you can enhance ad performance, provide seamless viewing experiences, and increase revenue.

Remember, whether you opt for CSAI or SSAI, personalization and effective ad serving are essential to succeed in the world of video monetization.

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