Did Flashpocalypse Turn Into A Flashpocalypse Letdown?

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, September 25, 2015
Doomsday arrived. And left without so much as a whisper. The big ‘Chrome Flash Block Day’ turned out to be eerily similar to both the Y2K build-up as well as the day-after return to reality from all of the hype. Did Flashpocalypse turn into a Flashpocalypse letdown?

The ad industry has been surprisingly slow to react to Google's note from June, with its intention to turn flash ads to "click to show." Despite the many articles and bylines written about the impending doom during August, and last minute recommendations in the 24 hours prior to Sept. 1, the reality is that most of the technical adaptation required for HTML5-only is not done yet.

Let's look beyond the hysteria, from a more analytic perspective.

As a side note, it was very bold of Google to make such a dramatic change just ahead of Q4 with billions of ad dollars waiting to be in the traditionally strongest quarter of the year. Google is clearly on nobody's schedule but its own.

First and foremost, despite the hype, not much has changed in the past two weeks since the deadline. My own browser and probably yours, even after a recent update, is still running all flash ads automatically.

However, all signs indicate that Google will turn this functionality on remotely even without another version upgrade.

Despite the calm after the non-storm, we're working under the assumption that the changeover could happen any day, and everyone should be ready to support HTML5 immediately. Here are two important points to keep in mind:

  1. Flash is only going to be blocked for content that is not part of the page. This should mostly be ads (though in testing the Beta feature we have seen entire flash sites be blocked, but let's assume that will not be the case).  Most ads should be relatively easy to transfer to HTML5 versions (a worst case would be a static image). In-stream video ads should continue to play without any interruption.

The main disruption will be for the already-problematic in-banner videos, which are unfortunately a huge segment of the industry today despite their failure to drive significant performance for advertisers today. 

2. (Video) Demand for HTML5 is still in its infancy.  From our HTML5 activity, we see 50% less competition than that for Flash (read: there are less creatives and campaigns bidding for HTML5 impressions) and a CPM that is approximately 30% lower than Flash. This is a huge discrepancy resulting from advertisers not yet migrating to HTML5.

So when will the move to HTML5 actually take place?

This is truly a case of the chicken and egg. Advertisers say there is no HTML5 supply from publishers, so they are not changing over their creative – why should they? Publishers, on the other hand, may be prepared, but the demand is not there (yet).  

Beyond advertiser demand and publisher readiness, verification and viewability vendors are also a key player in moving the industry ecosystem over to HTML5. They must update video verification tools to support JS and move beyond Flash in order for advertisers to make the switch.

So while the move to HTML5 is clearly on, as it should be, the switch-over pace of the industry is more of a marathon than a 100-yard dash.


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