Google AdX: Video disruption looming?

In just a few days, Google's AdX will finally adopt the OpenRTB 2.6 standards. It could upend the biddable video marketplace. Or, the silence of the change could be deafening. Either outcome is worth your attention.

Travis Lusk
Travis Lusk


AdX is the largest exchange in the world. While other, smaller exchanges have been deploying these updates over the past year, Google has sat quietly on the sidelines, waiting for April Fool's Day 2024 to come along.

OpenRTB 2.6: If you are interested in some of the video and CTV-specific enhancements in the OpenRTB 2.6 standard, scroll to the bottom of this article.

What's changed?

What the marketplace once hailed as premium video inventory is now under the microscope. Gone are the days when "instream video" was a catch-all term synonymous with quality. Now, if it doesn't mirror a "YouTube-like" experience—user-initiated playback, sound blaring from the get-go—it doesn't make the premium cut.

This isn't just a reclassification; it's a potential gut punch to the dynamics of the video marketplace.

Autoplay videos spawning with their sound off? Floating autoplay units? For the first time, they're being correctly classified and stripped of their instream status within bid requests. This is finally separating the wheat from the chaff in what constitutes genuinely premium content.

Why the change, and what are the consequences?

The transition to OpenRTB isn't just a procedural enhancement; it's an overhaul intended to streamline the programmatic marketplace. A transition that the market's largest player, AdX, has not yet deployed.

Google’s Adoption Of New Instream/Outstream Standards Could Spell Disaster For Some Online Video Platforms | AdExchanger
Publishers and online video platforms that rely on accompanying content video ads could see their revenue drop after AdX’s April 1 update.

This is a game-changer for Connected TV (CTV) ads, a market handicapped by a lack of standardization.

Features like ad podding support in OpenRTB 2.6 are not innovations; they're a bid-factoring revolution, enabling buyers to snag specific slots within an ad break. It also . They enable buyers to snag specific slots within an ad break, enable competitive separation and better frequency control. Huzzah!!

Legitimate instream publishers could see the value of their CTV inventory skyrocket while advertisers gain unparalleled control over where their ads appear.

Then, there are second-by-second-level bid floors based on the length of the ad slot available.

Second-by-second bidding

  • Introduction of mincpmpersec: This enables publishers to set a minimum cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for each second of airtime within a dynamic ad pod. It moves away from the traditional practice of setting a single CPM floor for an entire ad slot.
  • Dynamic Pricing: Ad slots of varying durations can now have distinct floor prices. For instance, with a $1 floor rate per second, a 15-second ad would have a floor of $15. This facilitates more precise pricing optimization, reflecting the value of ad slots more accurately.

Time-based impacts on pricing and efficiency

  • Enhanced Monetization for Publishers: By enabling granular control over ad pricing based on duration, publishers can better capture the true value of their CTV inventory. This feature allows for a more accurate reflection of the worth of different ad durations, potentially leading to increased revenue.
  • Greater Flexibility for Advertisers: Advertisers stand to gain from this innovation through increased flexibility in bidding. They can adjust their bids according to the perceived value of different ad durations, aligning their investment more closely with the expected impact of their ads. This granularity in bidding can lead to more efficient use of advertising budgets.
Google is updating its Video publisher policy
The revised policy will impact all video inventory across AdSense, Ad Manager, and AdMob under the Google Publisher Policies.

Hot Take: Pricing stratification

I'm predicting that pricing will stratify in the short and medium term, assuming that the following happens:

  • Huge percentages of what the AdX marketplace previously called instream will no longer be "instream." It will get reclassified as outstream.
  • A sharp increase ⬆️ in prices for true instream video due to constriction of supply. Said another way, when the recategorized outstream impressions fall away, supply of instream will be lower while demand for instream remains steady. (To most buyers, instream means quality, while outstream is seen as a low-cost reach enhancer.)
  • A sharp decrease ⬇️ in price for outstream video. In theory, the market will be flooded with impressions that no longer qualify as as instream and are relegated to outstream. What will be interesting to see is if publishers will adjust their price floors in advance. In other words, will the newly recategorized impressions carry unrealistic price floors from back when the inventory was considered "premium."

However, the decrease in outstream video CPMs could be mitigated by the fact that much of the Google outstream video marketplace trades like display today, specifically what the 2.6 specification labels "No Content/Standalone."

The supply of "Accompanying Content" and "Interstitial" placements should balloon as impressions that were once called instream fall into those buckets, and prices should fall.

"No Content/Standalone" supply will also balloon, but it had previously traded at display prices. Now that it will be treated as video, it could be a windfall for publishers that support these units. Sadly, these are the least attractive, lowest quality units (see definition table below).

What we refer to as "outstream" is technically a catch-all term for all of the other video formats that are not instream. The definition and specs for the "everything else" oustream formats was also updated as part of OpenRTB 2.6. See table further down.

For publishers, reclassifying video inventory and rejigging monetization strategies is...complicated. For those whose bread and butter was the autoplay, sound-off interstitial video player that previously classified itself as instream...adios premium CPMs.

Gigantic caveat

All of the above assumes that Google (and the other exchanges) does a good job of enforcing compliance. Based on how Google has policed its inventory quality in the past, let's just say I'm not holding my breath.

Some requirements are easier to police than others. For example, requirements to provide new parameters in bid requests are easy to enforce. Don't fill in the required bids for you. Easy enough.

However, enforcing proper adoption of the plcmt parameter gets tricky.

Screenshot from the OpenRTB Github.

The impression up for auction has all of its attributes declared by the publisher. Without proper enforcement, publishers could continue to call impressions "instream" that are objectively not.

If we observe very little change in instream supply, demand, and pricing after this change goes into production, that will be a giant red flag. It would indicate to me that publishers are not complying with the new definitions and continuing to monetize outstream impressions as instream, their higher CPM cousins.

Let's not kid ourselves. We all know this happens all the time. If you walked around any industry trade event happy hour and asked people one-on-one if they think the current supply of instream video impressions is legitimate, all of them will say 'no' or plead the fifth.

Google AdX's deployment of OpenRTB standards on April Fool's Day 2024 isn't a joke. This isn't just about tidying up classifications or making the programmatic process less of a headache.

It's a full-throttle charge toward transparency, efficiency, and precision in video advertising and the broader programmatic landscape. It is a market-lead initiative that Google is just now adopting.

I'm getting a comfortable seat to watch all this shake out. Stand by for disruption—it's going to be a wild ride.

In case it was unclear, this is a good thing for the marketplace. While Google was slow to adopt the new standard across AdX, it is good that it is finally happening. The volatility caused by the change will take some time before it becomes the new status quo.

OpenRTB 2.6: Why brands should care

The OpenRTB 2.6 standard brings pivotal advancements to the real-time bidding protocol, significantly enhancing Connected TV (CTV) advertising for marketers and advertisers. This update offers various benefits, from improved ad targeting to better monetization opportunities and greater efficiency in ad delivery.

Here’s how the key features of OpenRTB 2.6 offer substantial advantages to advertisers and marketers in the CTV landscape:

Ad Podding Support

The introduction of ad podding support allows advertisers to strategically place their ads within a group, mimicking commercial breaks seen on traditional TV. This feature benefits advertisers by enabling them to bid on premium ad slots, like the very first slot in a break, ensuring maximum visibility and engagement from viewers. It caters to the need for a more traditional, linear TV ad experience in the digital space, enhancing the impact of ad campaigns.

Types of Ad Pods

With three types of ad pods (Structured, Dynamic, and Hybrid), marketers gain unparalleled flexibility in how they present their ads. This variability allows for tailored ad experiences that can dynamically fit different content lengths and viewer preferences, optimizing ad exposure and viewer engagement. Marketers can choose the pod type that best matches their campaign goals and budget, ensuring a more efficient and effective ad spend.

CPM Floors by the Second

Setting CPM floors by the second is a critical feature for advertisers concerned about the value and cost-efficiency of their ad placements. This ability ensures that advertisers can dictate the minimum price for their ads based on the length of exposure, securing better ROI for video ads where duration significantly impacts viewer engagement and ad performance.

Enhanced Contextual Targeting

Improved contextual targeting through new fields for network and channel information offers marketers more precise ad placements. This means ads are more likely to reach the intended audience in the most relevant contexts, improving campaign effectiveness and enhancing brand recall among viewers.

Structured User-Agent Information

The introduction of structured user-agent information addresses the modern challenges of device diversity and browser changes. For marketers, this means better targeting and understanding of their audience's viewing habits and device preferences, leading to more personalized ad experiences and improved campaign performance.

Improved Resilience Against Fraud

Incorporating standards to combat fraud ensures that advertisers’ investments are more secure. This improvement protects marketers’ budgets from being wasted on fraudulent impressions, providing a cleaner, more reliable advertising ecosystem that maximizes the efficacy of each ad dollar spent.

Sustainability in Programmatic CTV Advertising

The significant reduction in ad selection carbon emissions as a result of adopting OpenRTB 2.6 not only showcases a commitment to sustainability but also highlights the efficiency gains in the programmatic CTV advertising process. For marketers, this means engaging in more environmentally friendly practices while benefiting from a streamlined, less wasteful advertising process.


Travis Lusk Twitter

Opinionated digital advertising practitioner, consultant for Fortune 100 Brands, and writer at