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Flash and HTML5 Creatives FAQ

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Flash vs. HTML5

Adobe Flash (formerly Macromedia Flash or Shockwave Flash) is a software platform used to create graphics, animation, and rich internet applications.  In order to render and view this content, usually as .swf files, a Flash player is necessary, and in the case of a web browser, a Flash player plugin is available.  

HTML5 is the fifth revision of HTML, the standard markup language used to create web content. It is an enhancement over HTML4 in many ways, but mainly because it includes built in elements for video and audio, eliminating the need for plugins such as Flash to display this type of content. HTML5 is currently widely supported by all major browsers, and is intended to fully replace HTML4. 

As a whole, the internet community has been shifting away from Flash as a standard for animation and video. Mobile phones have stopped supporting Flash completely in the past few years.  Recently, major web browsers have also begun to disable the Flash plugin by default, and Chrome has begun pausing all non-essential Flash in September of 2015. Still more changes are to come. Because of this, it's best to begin deprecating the use of creatives utilizing Flash as content or a pixel and exploring the use of an alternative such as HTML5 as soon as possible. In the meantime, if Flash creatives are still necessary in some cases, there are some available measures to take in order to mitigate the risk of dysfunction. Third party tools exist for converting Flash creatives to HTML5. 

For a summary of major industry policy changes, and tips to ensure creative delivery, please consult these reference documents:

Flash Creatives 

What is a Flash creative?

In the context of AppNexus, a Flash usually refers to a hosted .swf file, but it may be a third party creative that contains Flash content.  Both will be marked in our system with the Flash technical attribute, and both will require the use of a Flash plugin to render properly.  

Does AppNexus still support Flash creatives?

We continue to support all versions of Flash as hosted creatives, but the rendering of the creative itself will depend on the existence or version of the Flash plugin on the user's end.  Users may not have the appropriate Flash Player version, and are now likely to be using a browser that has the plugin disabled by default. If you must use Flash we recommend developing your Flash creatives to be viewable in Flash Player Version 8 or lower.  We also support both ActionScript 2 and ActionScript 3 used in Flash.

Flash creatives will no longer be accepted:

  • Google AdX - January 1st, 2017
  • OpenX - February 1st, 2017
  • Microsoft - May 1st, 2017
  • Google AdX (video creatives with only Flash content) - July 2017

Download the AppNexus guide to upcoming changes.

Will my Flash creative still serve if a user does not have the Flash plugin, or if their browser is automatically blocking Flash?

Unfortunately, targeting versions or existence of the Flash plugin on the campaign level is not currently an option, so a campaign containing a Flash creative can still serve to a user who does not have Flash enabled. Blanks will not be seen in reporting, as our system will send the content and count an impression, but the Flash content will not render. Fortunately, we do have a way to mitigate this risk, by associating a non-Flash backup image to the Flash creative. When this is available, our system can detect whether or not the Flash plugin is enabled, and will serve the content of the backup image if it does not find the plugin. This is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED if you are currently serving Flash creatives, as it is becoming very common for browsers to automatically block the plugin.  

As of September 1st, 2015, Google’s Chrome browser began pausing all non-essential Flash (anything that is not part of the core website, mainly ads). In this case, a backup image will NOT serve, due to the fact that the Flash creative can still render, it just requires user interaction to play.

Starting in September 2016, Chrome will block any Flash-based pixels (5x5 or smaller) on either Flash or non-Flash ads.

Finally, during December 2016, Chrome version 55 will disable all Flash creatives by default. Chrome users will have to change the setting for Flash creatives to render as designed. For serving on Chrome, it is recommended to migrate to HTML5 as soon as possible.

Download the AppNexus guide to upcoming changes.

How should I name my click tracker?

We allow the use of any Flash click variable name. The standard and recommended click variable name is clickTAG. When uploading a flash creative, we will automatically decompile your flash file and auto-populate the ClickTAG variable field in the UI.

Please note that click tracking variables entered on the creative screen will need to match the click tracking variable in the flash file EXACTLY - Click variables are case sensitive, but can be any variation of capitalization. 

What Creative Dimensions can you work with?

We accept all Flash ad sizes (though we may not have inventory in unusual sizes).

What file sizes do you accept?

We accept files of any size. For files up to 40k you can serve for standard ad serving fees. Files that are over 40k are charged overage fees as stipulated by your contract. Google requires the initial load of a creative to be under 50k. Refer to the Google Documentation for more information: http://adwords.google.com/support/aw/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=94230.

Can I upload a landing page with my Flash creative?

No. Before uploading a Flash creative to the AppNexus Console, please ensure that when you click on the creative, it does NOT load a valid landing page. If the creative loads a valid landing page, it is a sign that the clickTAG variable has not be configured properly. Please note that you should still be able to click on the creative and it should pass the click tracking test even though a valid landing page does not load. 

An Alternative - Using HTML5

What is an HTML5 creative?

HTML5 creative can refer to any creative that is a combination of HTML, CSS, and Javascript. The HTML5 standard also includes elements like <video> and <audio> which can be used to play files. 

Does AppNexus host HTML5 creatives?

Yes. We follow the IAB recommended zip file upload. 

Will publishers accept HTML5 creatives?

Publishers can block Video, Audio, or Animated technical attributes, as well as Expandable and Interstitial implementations of HTML5. If allowed to serve, the HTML5 creatives will run on banner placements requiring no special setup. The user must be on a browser that supports HTML5, but it is a rare occurrence where HTML5 is not supported.

How are macros handled in HTML5 creatives?

From an AppNexus perspective, an HTML5 creative is treated the same way any other HTML third party banner is treated. Therefore, the same macros are used and filled. For placement of the macros themselves, we recommend reaching out to your AppNexus representative in order to verify the correct placement, as it will depend on the creative code.