Growing use of tablet and mobile devices that lack support for Adobe Flash is driving the next shift in online advertising creative.

As a brand manager, you’ve most likely gotten very comfortable with online display advertising over the last decade, whether it be for direct product promotion, HCP event awareness, or myriad other promotional purposes. Build a Flash banner or Rich media banner, send along a backup image for the rare user who doesn’t have Flash installed, and you’re done. You’ve covered all of your bases.

But over the last two years there has been a seismic shift in the web-viewing audience toward tablets and phones. The data on that quickly growing audience is everywhere.

Tablets are expected to pass desktops/laptops in sales by 2015, some say even sooner. The recent slump in PC sales certainly backs up this opinion. Web design has already started to address the issue of the new flood of hardware and screen sizes through responsive design techniques.

In addition to many new devices, screen sizes and resolutions, this change brings with it an almost complete lack of Flash support in the browser. So that comfort zone we’ve all been in regarding banner advertising is about to get much less comfortable.

Responsive web sites need responsive advertising

Now that we’re building responsive websites that can adjust to a user’s device/viewport size, it makes perfect sense to create advertising units that use this same philosophy.

HTML5 to the rescue.

By harnessing the power that an open web standard like HTML brings to the table we can create rich, flexible advertisements that can make a consistent impact across the current and future universe of devices, browsers and operating systems.

HTML5 guidelines for digital ads

The only thing lacking were the kinds of standards for ad size, packaging/compression, server communication and compatibility, etc., that we currently have set forth by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) for Flash/Graphic banner ads.

In early May 2013, the IAB released its HTML5 for Digital Advertising 1.0: Guidance for Ad Designers & Creative Technologists. This document sets guidelines for file and ad unit size, code and compression standards, ad packaging and server compatibility.

The initial release of this document is open for public comment and will eventually evolve into a best practices standard backed by the IAB. It is the first step toward true standards for digital advertising in our increasingly mobile world. 

Adjusting to the coming HTML5 advertising landscape

Having standards in place will smooth the transition to HTML5, but there may still be bumps in the road.

Designers, copywriters and tech creators will need to adjust their workflows, as well as their testing plans, to include a larger mobile ecosystem.

Ultimately, as the standard evolves and matures, we may achieve a write once, run (almost) anywhere nirvana that brings a great, consistent experience to consumers across the entire digital spectrum.