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Is This the Death of Flash?

The News
Recently, Google Chrome announced that it will stop the auto-play functionality on all non-essential content on a website. And this week Firefox announced that it will now block Flash until Adobe fixes the security issues associated with it.

Huh? What exactly does that mean?
Chrome: For advertisers, it means that all Flash-based ads will not animate until it is first clicked on by the user. As a result, all animated ads will remain static unless or until the user wants to engage with it. For someone to see an ad and then get to your website, they will need to click on the ad to animate it and then click on the ad a second time to visit your site. Getting one click is tough enough; adding a second click to the process has the potential to significantly impact your results.

Chrome has already begun enabling this with its beta versions of the browser and will be rolling it out to the masses over the coming months.

Firefox: Unlike Chrome, Firefox has blocked Flash completely and the only way to see it is for users to enable it via a small pop-up that appears at the top of the screen. When it’s not enabled, the ads that are served aren’t even clickable - destroying any chance of getting traffic.

Big deal, Internet Explorer is still the leading browser, right?
Wrong. Google Chrome is now the most popular browser, with 39 percent marketshare (up from 33.5 percent in 2014). IE is the next most popular with less than 30 percent marketshare and Firefox holds about 15 percent. This makes more than 50 percent of browsers incompatible with Flash.

OK, so what do we do?
There are a few ways to address this:

1. Create ads using HTML/HTML5
HTML coded ads will still animate as programmed in Chrome. Over recent years, primarily since Apple stopped supporting Flash on its devices, there has been much discussion about whether ads should be built using Flash or HTML code. There are a couple of reasons this hasn’t caught on as quickly as some thought it would:

  • HTML5 ads are more time intensive to build. Simply put: time equals money.
  • There are version limitations with HTML5. When it comes to Flash ads, it’s relatively easy, and low cost, to create various sizes of the same ad. Generally one concept is created and then gets executed in various sizes with little impact on the budget. That’s not the case with HTML 5 ads - each HTML5 ad will need to be coded separately, so it’s like creating a custom ad over and over again.
  • There can be variances or compatibility issues with HTML5 that don’t generally exist with Flash. When an ad is built in Flash, the user experience is the same regardless of the user’s settings, so the advertiser maintains control of the experience. With HTML5, an ad may render different ways in different browsers. Just like with eNewsletter creation, advertisers should determine which browsers' versions won't support HTML5 ads at the beginning of each project.

2. Rework your media buy

If HTML isn’t an option because of any of the reasons above, work with your online partners and have the ads direct away from Chrome and Firefox users. But remember, with such a large portion of users being on these browsers, this could have a huge impact on the number of impressions a site is able to deliver.

3. Revamp the static versions of ads

If option two will have too large of an impact on the impressions delivered, then review the static versions of all existing creative and make sure they are well thought out. Best practice is to provide a static version as well as a Flash version. Because a static ad doesn’t get seen frequently, it has been common to create a static version just by freezing the last frame of the animated ad. However, this will no longer be the case as a well thought out static ad will soon be necessary.

4. Talk to your media vendors
It’s important to understand how your media vendors are proceeding with their business. If they can’t adapt quickly, they will get left behind.

5. Do nothing

Since reprogramming already approved ads can be costly, there is always the “wait and see” strategy. If this is the path chosen, it’s important to establish a benchmark now and then routinely watch the response rate and note if you are seeing a change in the response of your campaign.

What does Point To Point recommend?
The most realistic approach is to do a mix of all of the above. It’s going to be costly to convert every existing ad to HTML5, so choose those that are the most important to the strategy and have them converted/reprogrammed. The remaining ads can remain in Flash format but be sure to revise the static versions to be more strategic. Since other browsers/versions will still accept Flash, nearly half of the impressions will still be able to animate.

When it comes to Chrome and Firefox, be sure your media partners only serve the static ad. If you work with an ad server, they can program this easily on their end. Since Chrome will now require two clicks for the Flash ads and Firefox won’t even allow the static versions to click, allowing the animated files to continue to serve there could have a pretty big impact on the CTR or other KPIs.

Lastly, know that there are going to be hiccups over the next 6-12 months. One will most definitely be in reporting. There will likely be a discrepancy in the way HTML5 ads record data compared to Flash ads. If this does not get figured out in a timely manner, the industry will need to adjust and create new HTML5 benchmarks, which of course will take time to compile the data.

Our advice is to be patient and know that when 1+1 = 4,  it’s not your agency’s fault or even the media partner with whom you’re serving ads. This is an instance where the technology just isn’t up to snuff but the change is being pushed along nonetheless.

If you’d like to understand what implications this has on your specific media and creative strategy, drop me a note at sfirestone@pointtopoint.com. I’d be happy to chat!

Topics: General