Farewell Flash... Welcome to the age of HTML5

Henk van Niekerk

Storm clouds are gathering over Flash, and it looks like its days are numbered following the Amazon announcement that from this month on it will no longer accept Flash ads on its network.

Flash has been a hot topic of debate over recent months, plagued by numerous stories highlighting security issues and vulnerabilities. Now the industry is moving towards the new kid on the block – HTML5 – as the universal standard format, particularly for display advertising. As an early adopter of HTML5, here at AOL we believe that advertisers and agencies could learn a lot from publishers who have already made the move.

With display advertising set to rise in the UK, it’s clear that consumer behaviour and attitudes towards advertising have changed dramatically. We’ve come a long way from the ubiquitous banner ads of the 90s.

There are now distinct pressures for advertisers to abandon Flash. With ad creative becoming more sophisticated, engaging and interactive, the software needs to keep up and follow suit. ‘Multi-screen’ is the word du jour and advertisers are now demanding one single creative and delivery mechanism, that can work (and be tracked) across all devices. HTML5 guarantees that ads remain consistent across multiple screens whether that’s mobile, tablet or desktop, and if further proof were needed to support this, the IAB recently issued an open letter from publishers to advertisers stating that the opportunity had never been greater.

As an industry, we foresaw the beginning of the end for Flash when Mozilla’s Firefox and Google Chrome announced they were going to place a temporary block on it. The decision – prompted by protection of privacy – will impact greatly on ad campaigns across the globe. But the move will improve performance for users, taking into consideration the way we now consume media on browsers across multiple platforms.

We know that Flash is making computers slower, more vulnerable and increasing battery consumption. We’re also seeing a growing movement of people blocking Flash. This shows signs similar to the ad blocking movement, where people are sharing methods of disabling Flash from their computers.

Mobile compatibility is also an issue as iOS and Android devices require HTML5. Consumers are now accessing news and content more regularly on their mobile devices than on desktop. As mobile usage continues to rise, it’s quickly becoming one of our industry’s largest platforms.

With iOS and Android devices not supporting Flash, more and more users are becoming frustrated with their mobile experience. The shift towards mobile-friendly formats, such as HTML5, is an important change in digital advertising, ensuring multiscreen delivery and higher engagement rates. Additionally, HTML5 gives users the ability to click on an ad and buy without any issues – a crucial element for publishers and advertisers alike.

We believe that as we continue to develop as an industry, being nimble is increasingly important and HTML5 is quickly becoming the go-to software for creating captivating ads that work across multiple screens.

Yet the current skillset for agencies and advertisers still lies with Flash. But where there is risk there is also opportunity. For those publishers, agencies and advertisers that can learn and adapt, this can be a great opportunity to win more business and be ready for the future.

This will take time and investment and it’s up to those with the knowledge of HTML5 to educate publishers and advertisers to ensure they reap the monetary benefits and viewer loyalty.

Farewell Flash, it’s been an experience. Welcome to the future of HTML5.

Henk van Niekerk is AOL’s head of publishing international

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