What Do the Death of Flash and the Rise of HTML5 Mean for SMB Advertisers?

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At this moment, the advertising opportunities for small and midsize businesses (SMB) are simultaneously more wide-open and more complicated than ever before. The Internet allows SMBs to go head-to-head with major national advertisers to find consumers, while new technology like mobile devices and tablets offer even more potential consumer touch points.

Navigating these layers of complexity is difficult, which is why SMBs are turning to “do-it-for-me” or “do-it-with-me” solutions. But whether they are enlisting a partner or using a DIY solution, SMBs advertisers need to be aware of the latest trends in web development. This is especially important right now, as the once-dominant Adobe Flash seems to finally be on its way out, while HTML5 is ascendant.

For years, advertisers have relied on Flash to deliver rich media ads that contain animations and interactive elements. Flash bills itself as “the standard for delivering high-impact rich Web content,” but those days are waning, as major tech companies like Google, Facebook and Mozilla are calling for Adobe to kill Flash once and for all, citing security vulnerabilities and excessive computing power.

Flash’s death doesn’t signal the end of great advertising, because there’s already a successor waiting in the wings: HTML5. The updated version of HTML, HTML5 is a core Internet technology language used for structuring and presenting content online. In qualitative terms, it allows for greater functionality and interactivity in ads and websites, especially on mobile devices and tablets.

Apple was an early HTML5 advocate, making its iPads and iPhones non-compatible with Flash and therefore making Flash far less useful for advertisers. Apple has sold more than 200 million iPads, making the device incredibly important for reaching consumers. Smartphone usage is ubiquitous as well, and more than half of local shoppers look up information on their phone in the car or on the go. Continued reliance on Flash automatically prohibits SMB advertisers from reaching these potential customers on their mobile devices.

There are currently workarounds to translate Flash to HTML5, including conversion engines (Google now does this automatically, with some caveats). While these solutions promise some degree of ease, they introduce a lot of risk. Developing great looking ads in Flash comes at a cost, and there is no guarantee that all the elements will translate properly. SMB advertisers can’t afford to take the chance of investing heavily up front with nothing to show once the campaign runs.

HTML5’s benefits go beyond device compatibility as well. It allows marketers to do more with online display ads than they were able to do before. They can add functionality and interactivity, filling their ads with content and creating something akin to a mini-website delivered across the web.

On mobile, this allows the SMB advertiser to build something that looks and feels like a native app, but at a fraction of the cost. It’s light years better than the static JPG ads that most mobile advertisers currently opt for instead of Flash. HTML5 allows the eye-catching kind of interactive creative that has a better chance of making an impact.

Ease is another key factor. Developing in Flash requires a lot of time, and if advertisers need the ads quick, they are likely to pay more. HTML5 reduces cost through its flexibility – it’s very easy to create ads and automatically resize them for the appropriate environment. For SMB advertisers, this is huge – they no longer have to worry about an ad loading consistently across desktop, mobile phone and tablet environments. Gone are the days of developing one ad for desktop and then using a back-up JPG for mobile or non-Flash sites.

HTML5 allows for responsive design, ensuring that the rich media ads are delivered consistently with no additional cost. The same goes for websites and landing pages – by developing those in HTML5, SMB owners only have to create once, and then sit back knowing their content will look and feel the same across devices.

The big takeaway for SMBs is that any business exploring a web presence must think and ask about HTML5, especially when it comes to advertising. If you want ads to look their very best in every environment, HTML5 is the starting point. The Internet has made it easier than ever for SMBs to reach new customers, but they need to build their campaigns in the right format, and the right language. That language, right now, is HTML5.

Lynn_TornabeneLynn Tornabene is a pioneering digital marketer with deep experience in the mobile, internet, media, advertising and technology industries. As CMO of AffinityX, Lynn leads brand strategy, corporate communications and marketing, and is directly involved with all digital innovation as head of product strategy.