The Flashpocalypse is coming. Google has announced that the next version of its highly popular Chrome browser will “pause content (like Flash animations) that aren’t central to the Webpage” (read:ads).
With this upcoming release—currently slated for early fall—Flash ads will be paused on default for most Chrome users, approximately 27% of the desktop market. And, Mozilla Firefox, the world’s third-most-popular desktop browser with 12% of the market, has already started blocking Flash by default in its desktop app, citing security reasons.
Safari has been ahead of the trend, deactivating Flash last year citing performance, power, and security reasons. Flash was never mobile friendly, and with the growing popularity of mobile browsing, the moves by these browser makers may spell the end for Flash.
Flash, however, has long been the lingua franca of advertising. Some 84% of desktop ads are built in Flash, and agencies and digital production houses have invested heavily in building, developing and maintaining Flash expertise. At first blush, with the end of Flash nigh, the future looks grim.
This shouldn’t create panic, though. Yes, change is a coming, but that doesn’t mean agencies need to sit idly by. There are easy steps an agency can take to ready themselves (and their clients) for this Flash-free future. Here are five:
Stay calm, take inventory, and make a list
Start by getting a sense of the Flash ads you currently have running, breaking things down by feature—video, dynamic creative, social feeds, etc. It sounds a bit elementary, but organization is going to be key here. Moreover, creating this aerial view of your campaigns will give you an opportunity to view things holistically and, perhaps, spot patterns that might otherwise have remained unseen. Are certain sizes performing better than others? Do some features seem to drive performance better than others? Never miss an opportunity to look at the big picture.
The great Flash-crash of 2015 is underway. Chrome browsers update automatically, meaning this is a train you can’t stop. The longer you wait, the more blocked-out ads you will serve.
Talk it out
Regroup with your clients. Let them know what’s happening and the implications for their campaigns. Make sure they understand the details of the conversion, so they understand what, if any, changes to their creative are necessary.
Revive your ads
Converting animations is going to be key. Broadly speaking, there are three ways to tackle this
1. Use conversion software. Conversion software can be quick and easy to use, but it’s not without its downsides. First, the quality of the conversion can be somewhat questionable depending on the type of animation. If you have complicated animations, avoid conversion software.
2. Second, using conversion software will often leave you with a file that’s simply too large for publishers. Kiss your 40k animations goodbye; you are likely looking at file sizes of 150k and up. Rebuild in-house. If you have a team of HTML5 animators in-house, you obviously have a leg up. It can be costly and time consuming, but you can ensure a quality conversion. If you don’t have HTML5 animations, you can have your Flash designers create your animations in Flash and save out to HTML5 Canvas, an element in HTML5 that allows for the rendering of graphics to be done on-the-fly.
3. Outsource. Get a HTML5 production house to convert your animations, or better yet, see if your creative technology provider can do it for you. For most agencies, this is probably the safest option. It gives the right mix of efficiency and quality control, not to mention peace of mind.
Test. Test. Test.
With Flash animations, the creative runs seamlessly (and consistently) regardless of the browser or operating system. They run through the Flash plug-in, which Adobe—and Adobe alone—controls. But HTML5 runs natively in the user’s browser, and each browser program does things a little differently. Thorough quality assurance is going to be key.
Let’s say your client hasn’t upgraded their browser since they got their computer five years ago (which happens more than you think -- especially with large organizations that don’t update due to compatibility with internal apps).
That browser may have difficulty rendering the creative properly. Utilizing sites like BrowserStack is a quick option to ensure your ads are loading properly, but it’s best to cross-check by testing things by hand.
Check your creative on different devices, operating systems and browsers (and versions). If you’ve outsourced your conversions, the tech houses will do this for you.
With change comes opportunity—an opportunity to learn and grow and explore more efficient, effective tools for your client.