IAB’s Revised Guidelines for In-Stream vs. Out-Stream Ads and its Implications for the Advertising Ecosystem

Published: December 14, 2022

min read

There are two main types of video ads: in-stream and out-stream.

In-stream ads, also known as pre-roll and mid-roll ads, are displayed alongside a video. Whereas out-stream describes video ads that appear independent of any editorial video content.

With the explosive growth in digital video and CTV, the International Advertising Bureau (IAB) has recently revised its guidelines for in-stream and out-stream video ads. One of the key features of this update is the provision of new technical guidance to programmatically differentiate between in-stream and out-stream ad placements.

The key differences, as outlined by the IAB, between the two popular video ad formats include the following:

  • In-stream videos are served and executed within a player upon user request and played with the audio on
  • Out-stream videos are served alone with their own player in a display placement and typically include in-banner, in-page, interstitials, and in-feed videos.

Put simply, to qualify as an in-stream video, a user must signal an intent to view the video, like clicking to play, and the video must stream with the sound on by default. On the other hand, all other videos that do not meet these standards are, by definition, out-stream ads.

The revised guidelines spelled out by the IAB may make the majority of video ads fall under the out-stream category.

Somewhere around 99% of what we considered in-stream in the past on the web is now going to be considered out-stream, said an ad tech executive.

When the IAB guidelines are implemented across the industry, they can provide some form of standardization and clarity to the largely misunderstood and cluttered ad space.

If the industry does this right, publishers will have healthy incentives to create great video products, which will give marketers better ROI but will also make the open internet a place where people want to go, according to another ad tech executive.

The Implications of IAB’s In-Stream vs. Out-Stream Ad Guidelines

In 1996, the first set of display advertising standards was released by the IAB. This provided digital marketers with a level playing field to create ads and display marketing messages. What started out as eight standards back in 1996 has now grown to over thirty-three creative standards across multiple platforms. Statistics indicate that over 80% of display ads are currently sold following the IAB guidelines.

This shift in guidelines for video ads can be a boon for the advertising ecosystem. It can result in a more transparent ad buying and selling experience for video inventory. Marketers can make the right choice and allocate their ad dollars to the inventory that makes the most sense to them. Publishers can continue to monetize video, focusing on creating appropriate ad formats and pricing them at more efficient rates.

The ability to distinguish between these two inventory types is critical because it will aid marketers to develop quality content that draws audiences. Besides, this update can help marketers better determine the value they bid for in-stream video inventory.

In-stream content may be best suited for captive audiences who are likely to click, watch and engage with a video. On the other hand, out-stream content will still be valued for native advertising and brand awareness campaigns. An optimal mix of both out-stream and in-stream content can generate more value for marketers as they put together an effective video marketing strategy.

Ultimately, we want videos to be watched by audiences. And by properly distinguishing video ads as either in-stream or out-stream, the IAB is moving us toward a fairer and more efficient future.


Jasmine Jackson

Jasmine is a social media maven with a talent for building engaged communities. She's a natural storyteller and has a way of making complex ideas accessible to everyone. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and exploring new cuisines.


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