Marketers have been scrambling to prepare for September 1st ever since Google announced Chrome and Safari browsers would no longer support Flash ads after that date.
This shift towards HTML-only has been a long time coming. AdExchanger and others have even cited Steve Jobs’ “Thoughts on Flash,” published in 2010, as the “final nail in the coffin” for Flash. But the “death of Flash” is actually a great thing for advertisers willing to jump headlong into HTML.
Today, HTML can do anything Flash can do better, and HTML allows brands to connect to the burgeoning mobile consumer base, whose preferred devices do not allow for any Flash ads.
Recently, the IAB has released an update to the “IAB Display Creative Guidelines” for public comment, an overhaul that fully embraces HTML5. Cofactor (PointRoll) played a vital role in the development of these guidelines, and was acknowledged in their press release.
That said, we know marketers are confused, nervous, and looking for more answers. We sat down with Cofactor’s Lead Creative Technology Director Dan Mouradian, to ask him some of the most pressing questions surrounding this transition.
Q: How do the challenges for brands differ from those at agencies when it comes to adopting HTML? What’s at stake for both to get HTML done right?
Dan Mouradian: It’s the Wild West for both agencies and brands right now. Agencies have the exhausting task of dealing with a fragmented tool set, and they’re facing the challenge of transitioning their creative resources from Flash to HTML. Brands on the other hand have to understand how their budgets need to shift. They must adapt to the fact that the tools available to them in HTML aren’t as mature as Flash, and to the fact that the timelines they’re familiar with when building their budgets are no longer going to be the same.
Now, there are some emerging tools that are helping make the transition to HTML smoother and the production of ads faster, but right now both brands and agencies really need to rely on people who know HTML. From my experience, I think there is going to be a big challenge in re-aligning expectations for deliverables, but also the additional time needed for projects. There is more complexity and testing ahead for marketers just getting into HTML than they are probably used to.
In terms of what’s at stake? Legitimate consumption of content is at stake. With the release of the latest version of Chrome on September 1st, no impressions will be lost, but brands will still be charged for them. However, the content will need to manually be played by the consumer. Who is going to do that?
This is what consumers will see and what marketers need to avoid.
Q: What are the 3 biggest myths about HTML that need to be dispelled?
The number one myth is that there is 100 percent parity with Flash. What does that mean? For one thing, creative files in HTML are bigger and testing can take a little longer. There are also some differences in how certain rich content is developed. Microphone and camera access, for example, or video, live streaming, DRM, etc. These can all be done in HTML but require a bit more effort to develop. Marketers need to work with developers who know the ins and outs of HTML, because they can’t just deliver the same type or quality experiences clients are used to unless they do.
The second big myth is that it’s a simple transition for Flash developers to begin working in HTML5/JS/CSS3. If you’re strong Flash developer, JS is easy to pick up in terms of syntax, but there are enough differences for the learning curve to be daunting for many. For example, the Flash IDE provides a consolidated visual development environment where it’s easy to see your progress as you go, whereas with HTML5 development, it’s predominantly code based.
The third big myth is that HTML5 is consistent across all browsers. Even though all modern browsers strive to adhere to what the W3C dictates as standards, each have varying degrees of success when it comes to their conformity. There is nuance to what they support and what they don’t. Flash leveled the playing field in terms of a single consistent player across all browsers. That’s no longer going to be the case, so marketers are really going to have to invest their time into quality checking their ads, and agencies need to know how to develop across browsers.
Q: Is it realistic for a brand or an agency to be “HTML-ready” by September 1st? If not, what can marketers do?
Dan Mouradian: Frankly, they have to be. Chrome accounts for 28 percent of market share. Firefox, which also blocks all but the latest version of Flash, is currently about 10 percent. And desktop-intended impressions that end up on tablets can account for 30 to 40 percent of measured impressions. That is a lot of impressions paid for and lost. Those numbers are only going to grow after September 1st.
It will be a difficult period for a lot of brands and agencies, for sure, but the important thing to remember is that getting onboard with HTML – or even better, innovative with HTML – is achievable.
Marketers’ initial focus should be on education. They need to have a strong understanding of the differences between the workflow and process in HTML as well as the final assets they can build. Due to the fragmentation across browsers and devices, they should also focus on their QA and testing tools. There are great resources available like Browserstack and device simulators. That said, nothing is better than testing on a real device.
From there, they need to tackle the transition from all angles – not just the basics. Let’s say you’re working on ads within native apps. There are nuances with how MRAID is implemented in an app. Proactively seek out thought leaders in the industry who understand those subtle differences, and work backwards from your desired results to get the best project possible.
We’ll have more insights from Dan in Part 2 of our conversation next week.
And if you want to learn more about how you can optimize your ads for HTML, Cofactor is hosting a webinar titled Essentials to a Successful HTML5 Transition alongside our partners Yahoo! and the IAB on the September 1. Join us for free by registering here.
This webinar qualifies for 1.0 CE credits toward IAB Digital Media Sales and IAB Digital Ad Operations Recertification.