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Anti-Flash movement could boost native ads more than HTML5 in short-term

The digital marketing landscape is being rewritten as opposition to Flash-based digital content and ads reaches critical mass, but with the transition to HTML5 still in process, mobile-friendly formats such as native, video and social advertising could be the short-term winners.

Google?s Chrome browser began blocking Flash ads this week while Facebook and Mozilla, among others, continue to express their dissatisfaction with  multimedia software that has been widely used for years to build dynamic digital content. As a result, marketers and marketing service providers that have been focused on Flash could find themselves scrambling for a replacement in the near future while those who are already thinking in terms of cross-screen delivery could see a boost.

?As mobile spending continues to grow, and as desktop/display ads become more challenging due to Flash roadblocks, we'll see more spending allocated towards native advertising, video and social,? said George Penston, vice president of product at Flite. ?These are obvious, mobile-friendly mediums that brands can activate today as they work on their plan to move over to HTML5 from Flash.

?Furthermore, with in-feed native ad units built specifically for mobile and with metrics around consumer engagements outperforming display ad units, mobile continues to become an attractive channel for marketers,? he said.

Flash vs. HTML5
The opposition to Adobe?s Flash software for digital creative began years ago and centers around issues related to the fact that it is a closed system, its impact on battery life and security concerns.

Apple famously decided to not support Flash years ago for its mobile products. 

As mobile use has grown as well as cross-screen behavior, the swell of antipathy towards Flash is growing. 

At the same time, support has been growing for HTML5, which was developed with mobile in mind and is an open system.

While there appears to be a consensus that HTML5 will be the dominant format going forward, right now it is not as pervasive as Flash, in part because change is difficult but, also because of ongoing challenges such as cost and heavier file sizes.

Winners and losers
The evolving landscape is likely to create some winners and some losers.

?Those players within the ecosystem who built their product offerings around mobile or HTML5 will benefit most and will take advantage,? said  Eric Kirtcheff, director of ad operations for North America at digital agency Essence. ?HTML5 creative is more expensive and results in a heavier file size to produce right now.

?The market leaders will be those who help make this transition process to HTML5 easier or less costly,? he said.

Content delivery networks could benefit from the transition away from Flash, per Mr. Kirtcheff. These players are likely to double or triple their file sizes and migrate Flash video players to other formats.

Creative agencies could also benefit because more hours will be required to produce assets that work cross screen. However, those agencies that only design in Flash and outsource HTML5 development ? these still exist, insists Mr. Kirtcheff ? could be big losers.

Publishers and ad-tech players who have adopted responsive design standards will also see a boost from an increasingly cross-screen ecosystem.

While Adobe is likely to take a hit in the short term, the company could also find a role in the HTML5 creative design market.

Mobile budgets
Advertisers are likely to accelerate their adoption of HTML5, which offers mobile support, this does not necessarily mean there will be an immediate large-scale shift in budget to mobile.

?It is likely that there will be moderate immediate shifts in mobile spending that grow over time as HTML5 reduces the friction of trafficking the same ad tag/creative on mobile and desktop,? Flite?s Mr. Penston said.

As the ecosystem around cross-screen advertising and HTML5 develops, this will further support marketers? efforts to reach consumers on mobile, where they are spending more of their time.

?Marketers have increasingly put budgets into mobile over the last couple of years,? Essence?s Mr. Kirtcheff said. ?The Flash platform changes lay the groundwork for marketers to spend more money in mobile because HTML5 will be the dominant format; a format that takes advantage of better scale and better cross-screen messaging and measurement in mobile.

?As this investment increases, one could expect to see improvements in both tracking, creative formats and access to buying media in these in-app environments,? he said.

Final Take
Chantal Tode is senior editor on Mobile Marketer, New York