However, recently, Adobe Flash has begun to be phased out, as browsers and operating systems increasingly force its demise in favor of HTML5: a more modern, secure, and efficient Web standard. Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox have recently announced their intentions to limit Flash to only click-to-play initiation by early 2017. Apple Safari, starting with macOS Sierra, is set to disable the Flash plugin by default. Even Adobe has distanced itself from Flash, recently renaming Flash Professional to Animate CC and encouraging developers to adopt Web standards like HTML5.
While the end of Flash is imminent, the digital video advertising industry is one of the largest holdouts when it comes to transitioning to HTML5 for online video ad delivery and mediation. It’s astonishing that an industry that was built on the forefront of adopting new technology -- and with $6 billion at stake annually in desktop video spend --continues to deliver and mediate ads with Flash.
So why are we not embracing the transition from Flash to HTML5? After speaking with advertisers and publishers, it’s apparent to me that both sides want to move off Flash, but the process continues to be delayed for the following reasons:
For advertisers, the challenge is tied to data and services from various vendors used to track, verify, and analyze billions of dollars in digital video spend. There are hundreds of independent ad-tech companies, as we have all seen via the LUMAscape, which specialize in different aspects of digital video advertising. If one critical vendor is not properly configured for HTML5, it can hold back entire campaigns, platforms, and advertisers from using HTML5. In addition, many publishers and supply-side platforms continue to ask for or require Flash ads because publishers are not enabling HTML5 video ads on all their inventory.
For publishers, the biggest challenge is having to make an all-or-nothing choice between Flash and HTML5. Video players and outstream formats can easily be configured to use HTML5 with essentially no difference in functionality from Flash, with the small exception being some live-streaming publishers.
However, using HTML5 standards for video ads means Flash VAST and Flash VPAID ads will not be compatible. Likewise, when utilizing Flash, any HTML5 VPAID ads will not be compatible. Unwilling to sacrifice revenue and leave money on the table, many Web publishers, especially those using mediation or programmatic platforms, continue to find themselves choosing Flash because it still contains the majority of their demand. This holds back the HTML5 transition, since critical inventory is not enabled for HTML5 delivery and continues to force buying platforms to utilize Flash-based ads.
The global challenge that advertising platforms face is being able to work with progressive publishers using HTML5 when not all ads are compatible with this standard. Additionally, continuing to cater to Flash publishers creates problems reaching audiences as browsers increasingly auto-pause and phase out Flash.
As an industry, we need to embrace new technology, including HTML5, and work together to transition ourselves off Flash -- before browsers pull the plug and leave us all in the dark.