Since Steve Jobs published his open letter "Thoughts on Flash," in which he discusses Apple’s pulling the plug on Flash, it’s been clear that the technology’s days were numbered. Surprisingly, it took almost five years, but Google and Mozilla recently nailed Flash’s coffin shut by reducing Flash support in Chrome and Firefox browsers.
Despite being a long time coming, this decision has caught much of the industry flat footed. If you’re among those without a plan for September 1, when Google begins “intelligently” pausing Flash content in Chrome, here are several approaches to help you stay sane and stay relevant.
For many of your clients, you likely have been running variations on the same concepts for years, and you may feel pressure to migrate all of your existing work from Flash to HTML5. In most cases, this is no easy task. Think hard about the operational and financial costs of full migration to HTML5. Do you want to spend more time and money on under-performing ads? Are you willing to burn out your team for a concept you approved in 2011?
Take your best-performing concepts to HTML5 first. Rethink or deprioritize everything else. This is the perfect time to look at what you’ve learned from your analytics to determine the way forward. Focus on the good stuff, and use the HTML5 shift as an opportunity to replace the second-rate stuff with fresh work.
Automate the Process
If your clients have been running variations on the same ad units for years, look for ways to automate creative production instead of rebuilding an entire catalogue from scratch. Programmatic creative tools save you mountains of work with reusable layouts, whereby you automatically assemble combinations of assets, colors, and messages to create needed versions.
In that same spirit, it is imperative that advertisers review their entire approach to trafficking and managing creative. All ads should be dynamic, and trafficked that way. This will save a significant amount of time and money when updates need to be made, ranging from the nuts and bolts of the creative down to the format and type of ad running. This type of operational leg up is key to ongoing efficiency.
While the focus of all this HTML5 talk has been on the ads themselves, don’t forget about the people who make those ads. Many in the industry have built a career on Flash. These are smart, hard-working people who have dealt with extreme complexity and have solved countless, crazy problems while under pressure. Pulling the plug on Flash presents a challenge to their livelihoods.
Plus, where Flash is a proprietary browser plug-in, HTML5 is an open standard, so your team’s new skillset stays relevant for the foreseeable future.
Plan for Extra QA (Quality Assurance)
You already know that from now on you’ll need to build your display ads in HTML5, but you must remember to concept in HTML5 too. We will miss some things that Flash did with ease, like masking effects and high levels of animation complexity, but there are alternatives; it just may take you some time to establish your comfort zone.
Allow time for R&D as workflow begins and more time for quality assurance toward the end. You’re in a cross-screen world now. Flash rendered consistently across browsers, but with HTML5, you are subject to varying support across browsers and devices. You’ll need a true testing lab for best results on desktop, tablet, and smartphone. Work that includes any untested functionality is considered R&D, and allotted proper time separate from the deadline-driven day-to-day.
Keep calm and rest assured: this mass shift to HTML5-based display ads is an industry-wide issue. You are in good company. There will be brief uncertainty, but this period will be temporary as we all learn and improve. How do you come out ahead? Think smaller in the short-term by putting forward your best work; then think bigger in the long-term by strengthening your team, your workflow, and—as a result—your business.