written by
Landon Bennett

Introducing your new go-to ad preview tool

Ad Ops Ad Tech Product Updates 3 min read

Since starting Ad Reform five years ago, we’ve had to figure out how to support many different kinds of ads being uploaded into our screenshot platform. This includes ad formats like ad tags, VAST tags and HTML5 zip files, and different types of those formats (ie. DCM, iframes, INS tags, a DSP’s preview links, etc.). We have to load and preview an ad in our system in order to use it for screenshot purposes. Building support for all these different ads took a long time and it's a moving target to this day. Now we want to make the ad preview tool part of our platform, available to anyone, for free.

Introducing Previewads.com.

Let’s jump into what you can do with the tool!

Preview ads visually

Sometimes you just need to see what an ad looks like when fully loaded in a browser. You may want to see if it’s displaying the correct creative, if it’s animating correctly, if it’s the right size or dimensions or if it’s loading a creative at all. With our ad preview tool, you’ll be able to load ad tags, HTML5 zip files or VAST tags, both client-side and server-side. The tool shows a live view of the ad (client-side) as well as a static image of the ad (server-side). Check out this HTML5 ad preview.

HTML5 ad preview on Previewads.com

Share an ad preview to give feedback or diagnose ad issues

Once you run an ad preview you can share the results page to quickly fix an issue or give feedback on a change that should be made to the ad. We like to use Punchlist.com internally for the feedback side of this. Whenever we see an issue with an ad we’ll either send a link directly to the ad preview and/or create a feedback page in Punchlist that uses our ad preview link as the canvas for feedback. Using the example above we can create a new project in Punchlist using the ad preview page.

The Punchlist UI with our ad preview link embedded

Test and analyze ad landing pages

When we load an ad tag in the ad preview tool it will automatically click through to the landing page, grab a screenshot, display the landing page URL, and query parameters. Never launch a broken ad campaign again. Check out this example.

testing the ad landing page, URL, and query parameters. Previewads.com

Test for the presence of pixels and analyze the network timeline

On ad tags and HTML5 ads, the tool captures the network timeline so that you can test for the presence of certain pixels and understand what requests fire in the loading of the ad. See ad load time and size metrics are broken down in a number of ways.

Network timeline of the ad load on previewads.com
Interactive Network Timeline
Ad load metrics (load time, size, etc.) on previewads.com
Ad preview metrics (load time, size, etc.)

Preview VAST tags and download video files

Load your VAST tags to get a static screenshot and the fully loaded video. You can also download the video content. Here’s an example.

VAST tag on previewads.com

What’s next: Ad preview API

It would have been a lot easier if we had an ad preview API from the start of Ad Reform. It took years to fully support all the different ad formats and we’re still constantly building support for new ones. Eventually, our API will provide any of the things our free tool does, but at scale. Additionally, you’ll be able to programmatically capture as many static images of the animated ads as you want. One use case might be to capture all of these images of the ad to power machine learning features like ad content classification and ad optimization:

  • Increasing ad performance and insights by automatically extracting objects and attributes from ad media for AI and human analysis, as well as meaning and sentiment from ad copy.
  • Automate identification of creative elements in HTML5 and video ads.

You need to load ads and capture lots of images of the animated ads at scale in order to build things like this. Ad Reform will be able to power that. Let us know if you’d like to beta test and we’d be happy to chat about your use case.

Ad Ops