Breaking Through the Static

The online advertising (OLA) world has been trying to figure out its future for years. The industry has been slow to acknowledge and adapt to the mobile/PC landscape. Being stuck in the tried-and-true ways of the past has led to regression in the way we engage our OLA audience. The time is now to embrace fresher technology, specifically HTML5, and increase the reach and effectiveness of our message.

That’s especially crucial for mobile ads. Here’s why: Mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States in January 2014. This trend will continue to grow as phones and services get cheaper.

In 2010, Steve Jobs famously wrote that Flash would not be supported on Apple mobile devices, and the web world held its breath – primarily because Flash had been the OLA animated standard for almost 15 years. The mobile web was just emerging, and phone browsers could not handle Flash ads, so the mobile ad experience was slow and cumbersome. Most ads were just compressed static images, resulting in blurry or grainy images that were not very engaging. Compared with animated ads, the experience was…blah. So the search was on for a solution that would bring animation to the mobile world.

The solution: HTML5, a new version of hypertext markup that promised to work well within mobile as well as with PCs. The rise of mobile apps had more people spending more time on their phones and created another engagement point: in-app ads. But this new opportunity – and its captive audience – received the same old static-based ads.

At the time, industry leaders and ad servers acknowledged OLA was headed toward HTML5, but used the excuse that the technology was just not ready and thus they did not really push it forward. Instead, the industry settled for a seemingly more cost-effective plan: run statics on mobile, animated Flash ads on PCs. This practice led to less-than-optimal clickthrough rates and ROI results, which still continues. Though talk of the promise of HTML5 is there, true commitment has yet to happen.

Over the last couple of years, HTML5 ad production and the mobile Internet have come a long way, with advances such as mobile ad SDKs and 4G Internet speeds. Ad servers have retooled their platforms and can offer more engaging HTML5 animated ads.

Advertisers are spending in the digital space at a remarkable rate and will continue to reach their audiences in new places. In a Tech Crunch article in January, research firm Gartner expects “global mobile advertising spending to reach $18 billion this year, up from the estimated $13.1 billion in 2013. By 2017 it’s projecting the market will have sized up to be worth $41.9 billion.”

Why should this advertising medium be stuck with static ad units and experiences? HTML5 ads can be produced and trafficked with greater efficiency and will continue to get better. When comparing animated Flash and HTML5 ads, the results have been pretty compelling in favor of HTML5. Though Flash might handle some rich media solutions better, HTML5 offers one animated dynamic solution across all devices, and it is not very long before it overtakes Flash as king of OLA.

No more excuses or obstacles stand in the way. As advertisers, we can make the adoption of HTML5 happen faster by pushing for it and including it in our consideration set. We have the influence to buy and produce media that should go where the audience is.

The time is now to embrace HTML5 as the future of OLA and make our clients’ money work the hardest it can by delivering engaging animated ads across all devices.


  • Mobile Apps Overtake PC Internet Usage in U.S.

  • Mobile Ad Market Spending to Hit $18BN in 2014, Rising to ~$42BN by 2017, Says Gartner

    Tech Crunch
  • Interactive Advertising Bureau


Beacons: Part 2 – Application