Chrome Makes Major Updates to Flash, Affects Most Advertisers

Last week Google Chrome announced that they will be making major changes to their next version of Chrome, slated to come out sometime in September. The changes are aimed at Flash which specifically affects advertisers who build ads in Flash, aka Almost All.  

Adobe Flash is the main coding type of standard banners that internet users see every day. However Flash requires a lot of computer power and Chrome is looking for ways to reduce the stress on your machine and therefore make browsing the web easier and faster. These new changes will automatically pause any animated banner ad to save processing power. To start the animation a user would be required to click on the ad (but who would want to do that?)

This might not seem like a big deal to the average internet user because most people ignore ads as it is. It's one of those things that we're exposed to everyday and often times tune out. The average Click Through Rate (CTR) for a banner ad is 0.09%. This means that less than 1 in 1,000 people click on an ad. If these ads no longer animate, which is a main way to get a user's attention, that CTR will decrease. At face value the difference between 0.09% and say 0.04% might not seem like a lot, but if you're an advertiser spending millions of dollars on banner ads and all of a sudden their performance drops by over 50% it is a HUGE deal.

The solution to this is to build in HTML5. HTML5 is a lighter code which requires less computing power. Therefore Chrome will not pause any animation in an HTML5 unit. And anything you can do in Flash you can do with HTML5. Plus HTML5 has the added benefit of working on mobile where Flash does not. 

At this point most advertisers have already started building in HTML5 or have at least considered it, meaning that this change to Chrome might just force advertisers to make a move they already planned on doing a little sooner. 

Chrome commands about 47% of all browser traffic worldwide, according to StatCounter That number is closer to 40% in North America. It is by far the biggest browser meaning that if they make a change, people take notice. 

While it seems that a change like this was inevitable, the timing isn't great. As a side note, most advertisers do agree that it's the right move in the longer term. HTML5 is lighter and runs on desktop and mobile meaning that only one ad unit is need where before you would need two. However the announcement was made in mid-June with a launch date of sometime in September giving advertisers only four months to make the necessary changes. 

Most advertisers plan on a yearly basis and aren't prepared to redo all their ads in just a matter of months. Advertisers who might be hit hardest would be retailers and anyone gearing up for the holiday season. Many retail advertisers spend significant parts of their budget in November-December around the holidays. If those ads were in the process of being produced now, which in all likely-hood they are, they would need to be paused and totally redone. 

For its part Google does have an option in DoubleClick that can take a Flash ad unit and create an HTML5 version of it. However it doesn't always work and doesn't tell you how to fix it. If it can't convert an ad unit it says it failed, but not how to fix it. Also, this HTML5 version is setup as a back-up in the event that the Flash version doesn't fire. However it appears that with these changes the Flash version will still fire, just not correctly, meaning that there could be a perfectly good HTML5 unit sitting in the background that would never be seen. 

Advertisers are still figuring out how to approach these changes and everyone has a lot of questions. The big takeaway is to start building in HTML5 and while we do that we'll get more details.