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Ad Fill Rate: A Step-by-Step Guide to Maximize Video Ad Revenue

7 minutes read
Ad Fill Rate: A Step-by-Step Guide to Maximize Video Ad Revenue

What Is An Ad Fill Rate?

For a quick refresher, here's the formal definition of "ad fill rate":

"The number of ads served divided by the total number of ads requested (x100)"

For example, if your videos send out 100 ad requests, and only 50 ads are served, then your ad fill rate would be 50 / 100 = 0.5 (x100) = 50 percent.


The reality is, not every ad unit on every video can be filled with an ad. Each time your videos get played for users, an ad request goes out to your chosen ad network or exchange. If no ad is played in response, then your overall ad network fill rate goes down.

Think of the ad fill rate like a weighted scale that needs to be balanced. On one side, you have advertisers with a budget to spend on promoting their products or services (demand) – and on the other side, you have publishers with a digital inventory of ad space to serve ads to their viewers (supply).

The problem is, these two sides aren't always 100% equal, often skewing toward a higher number of publishers than advertisers. With so much competition for ad placement (more supply than demand), you need to put the odds on your side!

Why is Your Fill Rate Low?

If your ad inventory isn't filled with enough ads, or you're stuck with a lower CPM to maintain a decent fill rate, here are some of the main culprits to be aware of:

  • Technical issues like server timeouts
  • Ad placement issues (due to mismatched topic, device type, geo-targeting, or ad type)
  • Too few ad networks to request from
  • A high CPM floor that's pricing you out on ad bids

You also should keep in mind that a higher ad fill rate doesn't automatically mean more revenue overall. It's important to monetize your inventory as much as possible, but you don't want to sacrifice your CPM to do it. There's a sweet spot where you can maintain a decent CPM and ad network fill rate as well.

With that said, improving the ad fill rate on your videos is almost always a worthwhile goal. Let's take a look at six steps that can help increase your ad fill rate and maximize overall video ad revenue!

Step 1: Release Quality Targeted Content

Like with all other online marketing channels, user experience is key to your success in video publishing. As a broadcaster, you must create content that's (A) targeted to a specific industry or demographic audience, and (B) good enough to keep users engaged.

If you create videos that people want to watch, then they'll be willing to stick around through not just your pre-roll ads, but your mid-rolls and post-rolls as well. Quality content will increase your ability to monetize ads all throughout the videos you publish, and high engagement can also increase your CPM.

The question is, what makes "quality" content? It depends on your industry and the type of content you produce, but engagement metrics can tell you if your content is resonating with users and supporting a better user experience.

Here are some numbers you should watch for:

  • A high play rate
  • A high completion rate
  • A high avg. percentage watched
  • A positive upward trend for overall watch time

Step 2: Test Different Ad Networks and Ad Exchanges

Do you feel like there aren't enough ads for your videos? It's possible that you don't have access to a sufficiently large pool of advertisers.

Without getting too technical about ad tags and ad server networks, we should emphasize that you can add multiple ad providers in Flowplayer. This means you can test different providers to see which ones are getting the optimal results for you.

If you belong to a handful of ad networks and exchanges, you can easily add multiple ad tags to your ad schedule and diversify your sources for all video clips based on your chosen player configuration. Best of all, this diversity can give you a fallback if one ad network fails to serve an ad (a concept called "waterfalling" that follows an ordered list of ad providers to keep ad units from going unfilled).

It's worth looking into additional ad networks or exchanges to make sure you have the best ad providers for your needs.

Step 3: Create Custom Ad Schedules and Better Ad Inventories

Another important step in maximizing your ad fill rate is to create a custom ad schedule. In Flowplayer, this unique feature allows you to create custom schedules for the ads you want to display, including the ad type, duration, skippability, and so on.

These ad schedules are a key factor in how many ads get served on your videos, as well as which ad providers they work with. For example, if you want all videos of a certain player configuration to have an unskippable pre-roll ad, plus an overlay midroll after the position hits 35% from the start of the video, you can create and attach a new ad schedule to the player. This will immediately change how ads appear on all of the videos you've published with that configuration.

You should also note that this dynamically changes your ad inventory (the space you have available for ads on your videos). As you focus on optimizing your ad revenue for publishers, you'll want to consider not just the ad fill rate, but the total number of ad units available to serve ads.

After all, a 50% ad fill rate on a set of videos with 3 ad units would equate to more total ads served than a 100% fill rate on videos with just 1 ad unit each. You should also experiment with ad placement to see which ad types get you the best results.

Step 4: Adjust Timeout Based on the Provider

Once you feel that your ad sources and ad inventories are solid, the next step to improve your ad fill rate is troubleshooting technical issues.

One of the most common reasons an ad will fail to appear is because of a timeout ad error (error code 7001 in Flowplayer). The timeout number is how long to wait for an ad response from the network. If ad processes don't execute in time, then the video will keep playing without an ad served. By default, the server timeout in Flowplayer is set to 5000 ms (5 seconds), but you may find more success by adjusting the timeout setting to 7 or 8 seconds.

This is especially important if your video is loading on a page with other rich media or you have a more complex ad setup that takes longer to execute. Testing will help you find the optimal timeout for your videos.

Step 5: Minimize Loading Latency

Speaking of ad setups, you might be surprised just how complicated an ad setup can be. All of those VPAID scripts and redirects can cause things to load slowly, which is detrimental to ad fill rates, particularly for viewers on mobile devices.

It's not always easy to improve latency, but if you're currently employing any scripts, plugins, or redirects that you don't absolutely need, try to remove as many as possible. If you have the technical experience, it may also be worth testing some adjustments to your IMA SDK settings to see if you can improve performance.

Step 6: Review Your Ad Analytics

If you've gone through all of the previous steps, you've probably managed to improve your ad fill rate already – but you can get even more precise in diagnosing the issues that are dragging down your ad revenue.

If you work with a quality hosting platform like Flowplayer, you'll get access to in-depth video ad analytics. This allows you to track your fill rate trends, identify common errors, and gauge overall ad performance.

At a glance, you can find:

  • The number of requests compared to the plays
  • The number of errors
  • The number of skips
  • The number of completions

Flowplayer's dedicated Ad Analytics will help you find the "low-hanging fruit" that improves your ad fill rate with as little work as possible. You can even filter based on browser, operating system, and type of device to pinpoint what should be fixed and in what order.

Ad Fill Rate Conclusion

Ultimately, your ad fill rate isn't the only ad metric that matters, but it does provide key insight into how your video ads are performing. Plus, when monitored alongside other ad analytics, the fill rate offers valuable clues on how to increase your total video ad revenue.

So, which video player is best for ads?

As a premium video hosting platform, Flowplayer comes with a number of essential features that businesses can use to boost their video ad fill rate and get the best return on their video content investment.

To learn more about what Flowplayer can do, we invite you to try Flowplayer risk-free for 14 days!