Advertisers Losing Billions Per Year Using Flash Ads on Mobile

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

Mobile-Web-ExperienceThe old saying “Old habits die hard” can be especially true with business owners and marketers who are unaccustomed to working with technology. Many people learn just enough about the technology they use to take care of the immediate task at hand and then continue using these tactics again and again. The problem is that using the same tactics can lead marketers into trouble with technology has outpaced their old way of doing things. A recent study shows that using Flash in online ads is a tactic that is costing marketers billions in wasted ads and lost potential customers for their business.

Sizmeck released their Mobile Insight Index of 2015 which showed that marketers and advertisers are still using Flash for their campaigns, more so than the more mobile-friendly HTML5. This can be a costly mistake to make. Understanding requires a little background on what Flash and HTML are.

Flash is a tool created by Adobe that is often used to create ads that react to mouse movements and show videos on websites. Flash was used extensively for websites on desktops on ads, games and video players.

However, the platform fell out of popularity as mobile devices grew in importance. Apple and Adobe fought a very long and public feud about Apple’s refusal to support Flash on Apple devices. Apple never added Flash functionality to their devices and the past few versions of Android haven’t either. The industry standard has moved to HTML5 to create the same sort of web features that were once used for Flash on mobile devices.

The switch to HTML5 can cause problems for websites and ads that still use Flash and are attempting to reach mobile customers. As was noted at the beginning, these ads won’t be supported by most modern mobile phones. A recent study from Sizmek’s found that (amazingly) there were more than 5 billion Flash impressions during the first quarter of 2015. This is 25 percent higher than the 4 billion HTML5 impressions during the same period. Besides being outdated, the lion’s share (98.6%) of the Flash impressions defaulted to a static image instead of delivering the intended rich media experience. In comparison, just 8.3% of HTML5 ads defaulted.

According to one researcher, “In most cases the advertiser ends up paying as if [a defaulted Flash ad] is a rich media campaign, so there is waste in terms of dollars spent”.

The implications for advertises and marketers is clear, that they need to make the switch to HTML5 if they plan to use their ads on mobile devices. This message becomes even clearer when you consider the data.  According to the report,  HTML5 ads outperformed Flash ads by nearly 400 percent. This makes sense because when a Flash ad defaults, it reverts to a single static image. Since the Flash ad was supposed to include several images to sell the idea, a static image can’t convey that message and thus attracts click-through rates that can be as low as .28 percent.

In short, Flash ads don’t work properly on mobile devices. At best, the ad will display a static image, which will be very ineffective compared to a fully working ad. And at a worst case, the ad may not load at all so there’s an entirely missed opportunity. The researchers at Sizmek noted that during the first quarter of this year, 5.35 billion rich media ads “failed to serve correctly to mobile devices”. More than a third (36%) of advertisers had above-average rates of default, including 12 percent that never successfully served a rich media ad to a mobile device.

This research shows that marketers and business owners need to ensure that all of their ads are using HTML5 going forward into the future. Mobile devices are growing in importance and Flash is not the tool that marketers will be using to move their campaigns toward a more-mobile future.

For more information about things that can help mobile marketers, read this article on the recent huge growth in mobile video views.


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