pyehouse
9Sep/110

Mobile Ads, The Next Flash Killer

Recently, the Flurry Blog released a report indicating the sharp rise, both actual and anticipated, in spending on mobile ads. Of particular note, they pointed out, was the potential for mobile ad spending to dwarf other internet ad spending within the next year. As spending increases on mobile advertising we will see a concurrent increase in spending on the technologies needed to deliver that advertising in the mobile space. For any serious contender for mobile ad development, HTML5, not Flash, is the only reasonable path forward.

Flash is ubiquitous. It is used for a number of tasks on websites, from printer control, to copying text to the clipboard. It is also commonly used for the Flash based games you run across all over the net. And it is, of course, used for advertising. Flash provides a simple method of packaging animated multimedia content that can be seen by most viewers, and can be used to alter the viewer's experience enough to grab their attention and force them to view your ad, characteristics which advertisers naturally find desirable. While the Adobe Flash Player has been the source of many security holes and is reported by Apple to be a leading cause of crashes of their Safari browser, the experience has been "good enough" that most users end up installing it if it isn't already on their system. That's the desktop experience.

The mobile experience is quite different. First, iOS, one of the most popular mobile platforms today, does not currently support Flash and likely never will. There has been plenty of push and pull between Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen and former Apple CEO Steve Jobs concerning Flash's performance on mobile and that may have had something to do with the decision not to include it on iOS. If it wasn't the only reason it was certainly sufficient given the performance of Flash on the only other mobile platform currently poised to compete significantly with iOS... Android. To date, the Flash experience on Android has been, by most accounts, tolerable at best. In most cases, playback puts a serious strain on any mobile hardware that has the software capable of playing Flash content, such that any such content is essentially unusable. That's not something likely to be a major selling point for advertisers looking to take advantage of the mobile space.

iOS has a significant enough amount of the mobile market that no advertiser would dare consider giving up advertising on the platform. Even if they were willing to give up such a huge market, using Flash on Android is hardly going to be a positive experience either. As a result, the push for advertisers is going to be toward HTML5, not toward Flash. And as developers are tapped for increasing numbers of advertising engagements, they are going to be required to perform at least some of that engaging without using Flash. Speaking from experience, programmers like consistency in their environment. Reuse is more easily achievable when you're sticking to one development platform. Since Flash is out of the picture for at least part of these campaigns, you can look forward to a subsequent decrease in Flash usage in the desktop space, something I imagine many of us will be happy with.