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Stop Screaming at Me: Marketers Need to Keep Up With the Browsers

Keeping up with the Joneses can be optional—after all, not everyone needs a new car or a trip to Hawaii—but keeping up with adtech trends is essential for the smart marketer. The two most important trends to be on top of right now are replacing all Flash advertising content with HTML5 creative and understanding how the browser companies will be curbing advertisers from screaming at prospective customers.

Goodbye Flash

The technology that brought advanced interactive features to video content is no longer the preferred format for delivering advertising. Flash's demise was accelerated by Google which stopped running all Flash ads as of July 3rd. All major browser companies have planned to do this, as well. Have brands eliminated Flash too? "Roughly 30 percent of the ads we deliver today are still Flash based," says Scott Alexander, COO for LKQD Technologies, a video ad platform. Two-thirds of its customers are still working on this.

Browsers now stop Flash ads from running.

The computing overhead from Flash made video loading sluggish, and users needed to install or update a plugin, which has security risks. Flash was previously used for video ad playback, to build interactive experiences, as a pixel-tracking beacon, and for client side ad targeting. All of these tasks now need to be done using HTML5, JavaScript, and MP4 video files in place of Flash. Can they handle it? Yes, they can, says Eric Boyd, director of product for JW Player.

The IAB Tech Lab recommended the elimination of Flash ads by July 2017. "We have heard that as few as 10 percent of ads are now Flash, but others have reported higher statistics," says Dennis Buchheim, SVP and general manager for the IAB Tech Lab. "Based on our experiences with eliminating Flash for display ads, Flash will likely be around for some time while both supply side and demand side make adjustments."

"Almost everyone in the ecosystem had to make changes. Publishers had to build HTML5 video support (for playback and to support verification and interactivity), the full stack of ad platforms had to add checks for Flash content and try to prevent clashes from incorrect creative types being served, and other vendors had to support HTML and JavaScript-based verification and creative tooling," Buchheim says.

Flash Transition Recommendations

The IAB prepared guidelines to help advertisers and publishers handle the switch-over. Its recommendations:

  • Replace all Flash inventory with HTML5, JavaScript, and MP4 video files.

  • Check to ensure all video players have been updated to HTML5.

  • Ask publishers, ad platforms, and measurement and verification vendors it they support the latest ad standards from IAB.

  • Test creative on all supported browsers, both desktop and mobile.

  • Ensure verification and measurement vendors are tracking correctly.

Some browsers will still support Flash content, but viewers will at a minimum need to take the additional step of clicking a dialog box to enable Flash.

The next transition to be concerned about is how the user experience will be impacted when auto-playing video is not a default behavior.

Video Auto-Play (or Not)

It's becoming too common for web pages to starts blaring loud audio, acting like a spoilt brat having a temper tantrum. More than half of most videos now start automatically according to JW Player. Chrome starts 65 percent of videos automatically, while Safari comes in at 53 percent with half of these having sound on.

Auto-play video ads will need to make their point without audio.

Auto-playing video is generally not an optimal approach, says Brian Rifkin, co-founder and senior vice president for strategic partnerships at JW Player. Google Chrome and Apple's Safari browsers are coming to the aid of the viewers, requiring click-to-play for video to curb content randomly playing when no one asked for it, Boyd says. Chrome is targeting this for January 2018 and Safari is doing this now. The browser companies aren't banning all auto-play, but it will become much more limited.

"I don't think all advertisers and publishers are aware of (the auto-play restrictions)," says Boyd. While auto-play can still run within an app environment, in the browser the rules of the game have changed. Here are guidelines:


Auto-play is allowed on any of the following:

  • On video only content where these is no audio soundtrack.

  • If the user clicked on the site where the video is during the browsing session.

  • If the site has been added to the home screen on mobile.

  • On desktop if a viewer has frequently viewed video on that web site. Frequent is defined as previous video views of at least 7 seconds, on a visible tab, where the video frame was at least 200 by 140 pixels, and the media had an audio track that was audible.


Safari 11, the newest version, will stop any media with audio from automatically playing on most sites. Users can keep these settings or selectively modify auto-play settings on a per-website basis according to the Safari install notes.

JW Player Recommendations

  • Start by applying click-to-play video setting now, so that when those updates are fully implemented the change won't be so hard to work with.

  • Adopt digital video best practices, like ensuring pages load in under two seconds and video players are at least 500 pixels wide and are placed in the main column.

"I am sure that consumers will appreciate this improvement," says Boaz Cohen, chief product officer and head of business development for Clinch, an ad technology platform focusing on personalization. "Advertisers will have to make sure that the poster image of the video will be compelling enough for users to interact with it, and that the video ads will work, and clearly convey a message with sound off."

Browser Changes: To Be Continued

Flash is going and it doesn't make sense to be the last man standing since fewer and fewer Flash ads will display correctly going forward. The new auto-play rules will create an environment where actual people will choose to view content.

"It's a smart way to create deliberate intent for users to watch and boost ad revenue," Rifkin says. "The more you prioritize user experience, the better the advertiser and consumer relationships will be moving into the digital future." The loss of autopay will definitely impact impression count, however ads are more likely to actually be viewed by a real person and isn't that the goal?

Nadine Krefetz's article first appeared on OnlineVideo.net

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