Flash Continues To Die

Google announced on Wednesday that it will start converting all Flash ads to HTML5 automatically. The company presents this as an opportunity for advertisers to access more inventory.

In a post on Google+, Google says, “Over half of time spent online is now spent on mobile devices. This presents a tremendous opportunity for marketers to reach their customers throughout the day, whenever they may be browsing. But there is an all-too-common barrier: many mobile devices and some browsers do not currently support Flash. That’s why we’re introducing a way to automatically convert Flash ads to HTML5, giving advertisers better access to the portion of Google Display Network inventory that is HTML5-only.”

Last fall, Google announced interactive HTML5 backup tools for when Flash isn’t supported for both the Google Display Network and DoubleClick Campaign Manager. These tools would automatically create HTML5 versions of Flash ads, and when they’re served on devices or browsers that don’t support Flash, they show the interactive HTML5 ad instead of a static image backup.

Now, Google says, “Eligible Flash campaigns, both existing and new, will now be automatically converted to HTML5 when uploaded through AdWords, AdWords Editor, and many 3rd party tools. “With this new tool plus our best practices and versatile mobile ad formats, we’re making it easier for marketers to deliver beautiful display ads that just work — regardless of screen or device — ensuring a better experience for both consumers and brands.”

As Google notes in its help centre, not all Flash ads can be converted to HTML5. The company recommends uploading your ad to the Swiffy tool to see if it will convert. If the tool can convert it, it will be automatically converted when it’s uploaded to AdWords.

You can also see in your AdWords reports whether it was converted. Just segment the ad table by devices. If you see mobile or tablet impressions for a Flash ad, it was converted.

Google says that in late 2015 it will begin providing a notification on all converted Flash ads.

Google doesn’t allow Flash ads that don’t support the clickTAG variable, which is the tracking code Google assigns an individual ad and allows it to register where the ad was displayed when ti was clicked. It says that on any click, the ads should redirect to the URL specified in the clickTAG argument, and there should be any other redirection in between. Note that the variable name has to be spelled exactly like “clickTAG” with the upper-case TAG and no space.

Google mentioned “best practices”. It refers to a document called Smart Phone Tips: An Advertiser’s Checklist for Getting Mobile Right. This provides guidance on mobile creatives and extensions, mobile targeting, mobile measurement, mobile bidding, and working without mobile-optimised sites.

Google has been doing everything it can to help phase out Flash for years. This is only the latest nail in its coffin. Last month, the company announced that it is now defaulting to the HTML5 player on the web for YouTube embeds, moving to iframes. Additionally, it announced the deprecation of the old style of Flash <object> embeds and Flash API.