Is it possible to smoothly transition from Flash to HTML5?

See here a lead-up to IAB’s technical recommendations. 

July 2017,  the D-day for the total elimination of Flash recommended by the IAB. The six months lead-up has been ear-marked as a critical phase-out period. Flash, the go-to-software for video and gaming content is riddled with stability, performance and power consumption issues. Already dropped in mobile, Flash in video is about to be deserted by Desktop browsers in favor of HTML5 media playback.The IAB wants us to consider Flash as deprecated from January 2017, across its standards including VAST, VPAID, Open RTB and Video ad format guidelines.

How will it affect video advertising?
To date, flash was used for rending or playing back video, delivering interactive experiences, measuring viewability and client-side ad arbitration. Today HTML5 and JavaScript perform all these functions as well as lowered resource consumption and increased stability.

User experience: If you are a publisher, the incentive is high to abandon Flash because the site will be the most visible face to users who run into the Flash plugin errors. In future, publishers relying on Flash can expect an increasingly disrupting viewer experience, especially with the need for users to perform an extra action to accept Flash for non-instream video ads.
Phasing out: One of the biggest challenges of moving to HTML5/JS is timing. Advertisers are worried about the availability of HTML5/JS inventory while publishers don’t want to transition before advertisers are ready. The IAB addresses these concerns with recommended phasing-out steps in the following checklist:

Media and agency concerns: For media and creative agencies, moving away from Flash is important for browser capability, user experience, and the stability of inventory interoperability.  Stay tuned for the IAB checklist and recommendations to support the move in cross device video formats.

Technical angst: The main technical challenge is the ability to identify which inventory is Flash and which is HTML5. The IAB is considering a hybrid VAST tag with Flash and HTML5 media files, so the player can pick which one it supports. For those worried about whether the player can handle these tags correctly, there is the option of building hybrid tags with Flash or HTML5 VPAID with a pure media file alternative, so the player can run the file if the VPAID doesn’t work.

Note: Not all browsers support certain streaming formats that might be needed.  Balancing the conversation of VPAID JS and not supporting VPAID SWF is an issue.

Click here for more on publisher’s extended technical and operational guidance.

Media and agency issues: For media and creative agencies, moving away from Flash is critical for browser capability, user experience, and the stability of inventory interoperability on current technology.  The IAB has been working on a checklist and recommendations to support the move in cross device video formats.

Some challenges in pulling the plug on flash:

  • Lack of current JS VPAID inventory
  • Difficulty identifying HTML5 vs. Flash inventory – especially in programmatic
  • Lack of expertise to build JS VPAID ads
  • Cost of building more than one type of creative
  • Some publishers may still require Flash for VPAID and FLV for VAST
  • Old validators or outdated publisher specs could ask for FLV
  • Compatibility with supporting technologies

Main benefits of making the switch:

  • Protecting brands; the user experience is not affected when a user interacts with an ad
  • Cross screen delivery; being able to serve in mobile to increase reach
  • Inventory availability means there will be greater scale for audience buying
  • Future proofing campaigns; account for shrinking availability of Flash by using VAST which can run in all players or using JS VPAID
  • Reduction in campaign cost and complexity; there will be less builds, tags, testing, etc.
  • Keep creative offerings up to advertiser market demand
  • Moving away from supporting a legacy technology
  • Same technology (HTML5, CSS and JS) as rich media makes it easier for creative to support interactive video units

More on agency’s extended technical and operational guidance

Viewability and measurement: A major measurement concern is whether HTML5 will result in less measurable inventory. Over time the problem should be solved because most vendors already support HTML5 measurement.

Cost: When migrating to HTML5, changes to the video player, measurement libraries, ad server SDKs, etc. could necessitate development, test and operations. Realizing these steps are time and cost consuming, the IAB is looking at an off-ramp period, rather than switching immediately.