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Troubleshooting advertising

Getting advertising to work is very important to optimize your revenue from your content. It is partially a science and partially an art since it involves many parties and some tricks. We know since we have been around the block a few times and debugged some of the most complex ad setups there is.

Key reasons why troubleshooting advertings can be difficult:

  • ad servers might respond differently based on how many times you access a certain ad tag
  • ad servers might respond differently over time as campaigns change
  • ad servers might respond differently basef on what pages you have visited (retargeting)
  • ad servers might respond differently based on your location
  • ad servers might respond differently based on your device and browser
  • with programmatic advertising you can be almost certain that your ads will vary a lot
  • with VPAID javascript ads there are plenty of ways to screw up

All of these factors make it difficult to find and debug an ad error. Therefore we suggest that you try the below things to debug advertising.

Validate that your ad tag is working in a reference implementation

Make sure that your VAST Ad Tag actually returns valid ads by checking it with Google VAST validator. If the Ad Tag is not working there you can be pretty sure the problem is related to the booking / delivery of the ad from the ad server. You should reach out to your ad provider with a copy of the VAST Ad Tag response and compare with sample tags to see what can be the cause of the problem.

Please also make sure you don't have an ad blocker enabled.

Save a copy of the VAST response as a text file to make the problem repeatable

If the VAST tag does indeed work in the VAST inspector there are chances you have done something wrong in the set-up or similar. But in order to be sure that you are always debugging the same VAST ad response we recommend that you save the VAST response as a text file on your server and instead of directing the player to the Ad Server URL you direct the player to your text file. If you need to send information about the problem to someone else and have their help to debug it the first question they will ask is what the VAST response is and if you save it as a text file you can show them what setup that did not work.

Review potential ad errors for additional clues

There are several different settings for advertising and that might cause your ad not to be displayed as you expect. You can see what response the ad server is giving by inserting your ad tag into a browser and it looks something like this:

<VAST xmlns:xsi="http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance" xsi:noNamespaceSchemaLocation="vast.xsd" version="3.0">
<Ad id="697203496">
<InLine>
<AdSystem>GDFP</AdSystem>
<AdTitle>External NCA1C1L1 Linear Inline</AdTitle>
<Description>
<![CDATA[ External NCA1C1L1 Linear Inline ad ]]>
</Description>
<Error>
<![CDATA[
https://pubads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/conversion/?ai=BUFIagmB-W_LZDsKLZqOPtbgB8NiP6wYAAAAQASCo3bsmOABY2MayxdcBYPGt_IWkH7oBCjcyOHg5MF94bWzIAQXAAgLgAgDqAiUvMTI0MzE5MDk2L2V4dGVybmFsL3NpbmdsZV9hZF9zYW1wbGVz-AKE0h6AAwGQA8gGmAOsAqgDAeAEAdIFBhCo9rnMApAGAaAGI6gHmM4b2AcB4AcL0ggJCIDhgBAQARgB&sigh=4QaLBuZ5PxU&label=videoplayfailed[ERRORCODE]
]]>
</Error>
<Impression>
<![CDATA[
https://securepubads.g.doubleclick.net/pcs/view?xai=AKAOjsvQEoZXxF619N6dCa6B8Wa1tJZ7UwxoUTSR0usl7cvn3GXSoVvbPUh82hCsw561efljEBFwosBIo2F78P9A35bRKk2R0m3JOEZKNoPNWwF5-GFR0uEHkKTRDlRM0tnu9e16Ml4BFIZw78QKZ6Oqk3EGADvEM_PJ2JzIfCZLjfP0DkZbbLQe0FHN16cGsuLXOKCXkI6soH6buPGisBU_tQ_fPVOFUn4mpYd7rvLG9gCDWz5C7BAWtcMVFVpx&sig=Cg0ArKJSzD2yRXVU-6Y3EAE&adurl=
]]>
</Impression>
<Creatives>
<Creative id="57859154776" sequence="1">...</Creative>
<Creative id="57857370976" sequence="1">...</Creative>
</Creatives>
<Extensions>...</Extensions>
</InLine>
</Ad>
</VAST>

Below are common cases where you might not see an ad:

  • the VAST response is empty
  • you are getting a VPAID / Flash based ad that is not supported
  • you have a VMAP response where the player expects a VAST response
  • you have not configured ad breaks in the player to trigger ad playback
  • the ad creative is missing or in an incorrect file format (sometimes they have .flv video files)

Here you can see a list of ad errors and their potential source of problem and also recommended actions.

Try the same settings in the player with a sample tag of the same type

If you cannot find any reason for the ad tag to fail, you can try working in the other direction and instead use a sample VAST tag mimicing your type of ad to see if that ad tag is working. This will help you troubleshoot cases where you have set the player up to play only HTML5 ads but you are getting a VPAID / flash based ad back from the ad server. By using a sample tag to achieve the same use case you will

Debugging VPAID javascript Ads - don't!

Well, this we have tried to do several times, but in all honesty we recommend not to debug VPAID javascript ads. They are just too complicated to debug. We care about the mental health of our developers and debugging VPAID ads seems to have a very negative effect. You need to reach out to the provider of the ad to have them debug it.