Client-side ad insertion (CSAI) stands as one of the most widely employed methods for monetizing video content. CSAI involves preloading ads within the video player, ensuring they are ready for display to the viewer. Nonetheless, more than 26% of present-day viewers employ ad blockers, which prevent these ads from loading and consequently result in revenue loss.

Telecommunication companies, broadcasters, and publishers are swiftly transitioning from client-side ad insertion to server-side ad insertion (SSAI). With SSAI, ads are loaded on the server side and seamlessly integrated into the content stream. This article explores the challenges associated with client-side ad insertion and delves into the reasons behind the widespread adoption of server-side ad insertion as a solution.

Client-Side Ad Insertion (CSAI).
Client-Side Ad Insertion (CSAI).

Ad Blockers: A Revenue Roadblock

One of the significant challenges with CSAI is its vulnerability to ad blockers. These browser plugins are on the rise, with approximately 26% of desktop users and 15% of mobile consumers employing them to escape ads. Ad blockers disrupt the revenue streams of content publishers by preventing ads from playing.

In the CSAI process, ad blockers identify requests to ad servers (often blacklisted by ad blockers) and thwart these requests. Consequently, ads fail to play, and content videos continue without interruption. While it’s possible to detect ad blockers and restrict content access, this approach often leads to a subpar viewing experience, resulting in decreased viewer retention and, ultimately, a negative impact on earnings.

Diminished Quality of Service

CSAI involves frequent switches between the main content and advertisements. These transitions are often accompanied by loading indicators, which are particularly conspicuous on mobile devices with stringent video playback requirements. The complexity of managing CSAI steps within video players can sometimes lead to playback stalls, ad playback failures, stream restarts, or even video player crashes.

Viewers tend to engage more with content when immersed, watching longer and more content. Quality of service issues disrupt this immersion, potentially causing viewers to exit prematurely. This negatively affects ad completion rates and overall CPM (cost per mille).

Monetizing Live Content: A Complicated Endeavor

Client-side ad insertion is well-suited for video-on-demand (VOD) content with pre- or mid-roll ads. However, the same doesn’t hold true for live streamed content, where ad breaks need precise scheduling to ensure viewers don’t miss important content.

To address this issue, publishers have introduced secondary communication channels between the video player and ad server to trigger CSAI workflows when ad breaks occur in live content. However, this approach has downsides: it’s often custom-built, susceptible to ad blockers, and can introduce additional overhead that affects overall scalability.

Server-Side Ad Insertion to the Rescue

Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI)
Server-Side Ad Insertion (SSAI)

Thankfully, there is a solution in the form of server-side ad insertion (SSAI). With SSAI, most of the ad handling logic is managed by server-side components, mitigating the drawbacks associated with CSAI and offering new avenues for efficiency and revenue generation.

1. A Shield Against Ad Blockers
Unlike CSAI, where ads are loaded or blocked at the viewer’s browser, SSAI makes ad requests server-side before delivering integrated content to viewers. This integration makes ads an intrinsic part of the content stream, rendering ad blockers powerless to block ad requests or distinguish between content and ads. This results in a boost in played ad inventory and an increase in CPM.

2. An Uninterrupted Viewer Experience
In SSAI, much of the ad logic is handled by the server, simplifying the workflow and reducing the occurrence of edge cases or video player issues that disrupt viewer immersion. Furthermore, because ads are stitched seamlessly into the content stream, viewers no longer encounter loading spinners during ad breaks. This leads to an enhanced quality of service and higher viewer retention rates.

3. Simplified Monetization of Live Streams
Server-side ad insertion facilitates precise ad scheduling in live streams. Publishers can annotate their live content with ad markers, specifying when ad breaks should start and end. On the server side, these markers trigger the replacement of content within the stream with relevant ads, streamlining the process of inserting ad breaks in both live and VOD content.

A Brighter Future Ahead

In this article, we’ve explored the limitations of client-side ad insertion and how server-side ad insertion addresses these challenges. With ad blockers unable to thwart server-side ads, a smoother viewer experience, and simplified ad scheduling, server-side ad insertion offers a promising future for content publishers and advertisers alike.