Flash has been on borrowed time for a while, but the contingency clock is about to stop.
Although it has clung on amid increasing limitations from most major browsers, Google will soon deal the final blow — in June, the company is set to stop work on software development kits (SDKs) for Flash, removing all support for Flash and the video Flash ads Google still supports. Such is the anticipated impact of this move that by July the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) expects the transition to HTLM5 and the “elimination of Flash Interactive Video Ads” will be complete.
For those who have so far been reluctant to make the switch, the news may seem like a cause for concern. Yet it shouldn’t be. While flash-based VPAID ads may be passable on desktop, the majority of users now consume video ads on mobile. The shift to HTML5 is crucial to meet user expectations of ads that render perfectly on multiple screens. What’s more, the change doesn’t have to be complex if we take the right approach.
So, to ease the transition, here’s a look at why and how we must finally say goodbye to Flash.
A long overdue retirement
It’s well known that Flash is imperfect. While it has played an important role in serving video, advertising and gaming content across the web, the media player has also been plagued by a litany of issues, including numerous security breaches, problems with stability, and its tendency to drain battery power. All of these make for a bad user experience on any device, but particularly on mobile. Indeed, Adobe itself acknowledged this problem several years ago by moving to HTML5 video and animations on mobile as a means to improve quality. And, unsurprisingly, marketers have been reluctant to assign budgets to build two videos – one for Flash and another for HTML5.
Yet despite these defects and persistent calls for Flash to be replaced by more versatile tools, many key industry players are still dragging their heels, which begs the question: why?
Challenges and advantages
Yet such apprehensions can’t overshadow the advantages of HTLM5. With its capacity to automatically adapt ads to any screen, HTML5 ensures that ad quality remains high across all devices, including mobile, significantly enhancing audience satisfaction and campaign scale. Indeed, its versatility also means that there is less pressure to build multiple versions of ad creative ad for different screens, reducing costs for advertisers, while increasing publisher ability to keep up with demand for ad formats that reach a range of audiences. Furthermore, Google’s impending withdrawal of support means that Flash-based video ads will no longer be served, so if advertisers want to harness the power of digital video — which now makes up over an hour of consumers’ daily viewing time — an upgrade to HTML5 is paramount.
Streamlining the switch
So how can brands make the move as simple and successful as possible?
1. Ensure a straightforward transition
An industry-wide change cannot be effective if different players are using different tools, so the first step is universal adoption. If brand encourages publishers, ad networks, demand and supply-side platforms to align video campaigns with the IAB’s HTLM5 VPAID (Video Player-Ad Interface Definition) standard, consistency can be used to keep confusion at bay.
2. Phase out Flash-based inventory
As Flash leaves the advertising scene, its presence amongst inventory is set to decrease. By reducing their usage of Flash-based impressions and expanding the range ad types used in each campaign, brands can keep coverage strong while future-proofing their campaigns for a new HTML5 world.
3. Request in-depth analytics and viewability insight
A technology so long integrated into the fabric of digital advertising can be hard to spot, which means transparency is crucial. Brands should ask for a full overview of the VPAID standard in use when buying inventory to establish whether any Flash wrappers are present and make sure back-up content will default to HTML5, not Flash.
4. Communicate openly with publishers
You’ve got to hand it to Flash; the media player has proved its staying power in the face of many challenges and great opposition. But the end has been nigh for some time and with decisive action from both Google, and the IAB, it now looks inevitable. Yet this transition is good news for advertisers and consumers — giving one the tool required to better meet the needs of the other. Change can be confusing, but by taking an efficient and cohesive approach, brands can ensure they are ready when the HTML5 era finally arrives.