Flash in the pan: Agencies need to embrace HTML5 in a multi-channel world

Think back just ten years ago, when it seemed unimaginable that we’d be watching iPlayer on our computers, ordering groceries on a tablet and checking the news on our mobile phones – sometimes all at the same time. The fact is 40% of consumers are now multi-device users – switching from one device to another, or even using devices simultaneously, be it mobile, laptop, desktop or tablet. In fact, more than 60% use at least two different devices each day and nearly 25% move between three, according to a study conducted by Facebook in collaboration with GFK.

This multitude of users and screen time presents agencies and the brands they represent with an exciting opportunity to engage with their target market. However, a large proportion of this audience might not see the creative as it was intended – if at all – due to an over-reliance on using Flash software. It begs the question, why spend millions on mobile advertising using Flash when its production and delivery might render the creative obsolete and why is the alternative of HTML5 yet to be adopted by some agencies?

In an age of multiple devices and different operating systems, it can be a challenge to produce creative campaigns that display perfectly on every single device. Many agencies and designers are still hung up on Flash, and so are limiting the amount of people who can see their advert – most obviously those using iOS and Apple products. This is a huge portion of potential consumers as 36% of the 195 million tablets of tablets sold in 2013 used iOS and Apple has sold over £500 million iPhones, which equates to around a third of the entire smartphone market.

Crucially, Flash can be a waste of money and opportunity. Mobile inventory – especially video – can be costly and mistakes will have a massive impact on impressions. If content is not appearing on every device correctly, the true audience potential is not being realised.

Other complications attached to Flash include the time and effort needed to re-create campaigns in multiple formats, the costs associated with video serving and ad exchange barriers, which are all heightened or unique to the use of Flash.

Many agencies also employed Flash specialists during the software’s heyday and now feel obliged to carry on in order to justify their recruitment spend. While an in-house Flash expert was desirable, it is now an expensive surplus to requirements as the Flash alternative in the form of HTML5 is very easy and hassle-free to adopt. When you consider that HTML5 is capable of running on any device, whether mobile, android, iPad, tablet or smartphone, switching seems obvious – yet why haven’t all agencies and clients made the switch?

Barriers to entry might be one consideration but a number of companies are now offering SaaS products that enable you to build video adverts with little to no formal coding knowledge using HTML5. With all the development completed behind the scenes, even a junior creative can build the ad, enabling the technology company to distribute, manage and report across multiple networks and channels.

Another benefit is SEO as interactive videos based on HTML5 can contain keywords that search engines can see and find, making it easier for consumers to search for content within an interactive video. The possibilities for interactivity are also greatly improved, from users being able to choose what they watch to shop-able video ads, or those that enable click through to additional content.

All in all HTML5 allows you to connect with a larger proportion of consumers, without alienating those who might be using iOS or another incompatible device. Like Flash, it allows creatives to use animation, video and other interesting design elements, but unlike Flash, HTML5 guarantees performance. It allows content to appear on any device and any screen size, without losing the message, or the quality of the creative.

It’s time that agencies and clients understood the benefits of HTML5 and embraced it the next time they are tasked with a multi-device campaign. Building in HTML5 is the only way to ensure an agency’s campaign (and reputation) isn’t gone in a flash.

By Luke Westland, managing director, Scenestealer

This article appeared on Brand Republic’s The Wall