Gone in a Flash

Google’s decision to prevent Flash ads from autoplaying on September 1st has signalled the final nail in Flash’s coffin and has given ad tech headline writers their latest phrase of doom – “Flashpocalypse”. AML’s Digital Director Jonathan Hirshler looks at the impact on the ad industry.

This move by Google represents a seminal moment in ad production, as Flash has been the industry standard since animated ads began to appear back in the mid 1990’s. To give an idea of the scale of change we are about to see, over 90% of rich-media impressions were served from Flash-based banners in Q1 this year, according to a report by Sizmek data.

In response to the move, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) have published guidelines to convert Flash to HTML5 and Google is trying to support its clients by offering a tool that automatically transfers Flash ads into HTML5. At AML, we took the decision in early 2014 to tool up our full web development team on HTML5 in preparation for the move. When Google announced the September switchover date, we put our plans into action and we have spent the last few months working with our clients to re-build existing creative assets whilst planning and deploying all future campaigns in HTML5.

Our early preparation has put us in a strong position to support our clients but the move has not been completely flawless for everyone. The switch appears to have caught some agencies by surprise (especially those with in-house Flash production teams) whilst a number of media and ad-serving outfits are in the process of reviewing their Flash-based processes. On the upside, the creative opportunities that HTML5 presents are significant and we expect to see online ads evolve into more elegant, content-rich, interactive experiences as we explore the full possibilities.

Google’s recent actions are not the first time that the software has been dropped. Apple has long since forsaken Adobe for not embracing the mobile age. Having been designed for mouse-operated PCs, most Flash web assets aren’t supported by touch screen technology, making them pretty redundant on modern mobile devices. Apple’s dislike of Flash runs even deeper, with Flash being the number one cause of Mac crashes in 2010. Flash has been going for a while – but now it’s gone.