Many businesses rely on Flash banner ads because they’re so eye-catching, but they’re soon to be extinct! In this article, we’ll show you why these interactive ads are going the way of the dinosaur and give you some alternative ways to build cool ads online. The bottom line: you can still create striking, beautiful banner ads—even animated ones—all without Flash.

Flash: animated, interactive, outdated

Flash ads are interactive web banners made with Adobe Flash that can feature complex animations, movies and sound. This technology became extremely popular online because of how it can react to users. For example, an entire ad can transform into a full multimedia experience—all with a simple mouse-over.

Screenshots of an interactive Flash ad from Lipton

Recently, its popularity has taken a turn. Earlier this year—on January 2, 2017—Google Adwords stopped running Flash display ads in their advertisement placement platform, and browsers have already begun to phase them out. Firefox forces users to opt in each time an ad appears, while Safari users have to download and upgrade plugins constantly. As of December 2016, Google Chrome made HTML5 its default multimedia experience.

From a technology perspective, Flash ads are simply outdated. Unlike the newer HTML5 technology, Flash won’t work on all devices, which is a serious issue as the number of mobile users on different devices continues to grow. Meanwhile, Flash is also the source of six of the top ten most frequently targeted bugs used by hackers.

Here is an example from Google of the difference between a site that isn’t optimized for mobile and a site that’s responsively designed

For designers, creating Flash content can be a challenge. When almost all new assets need to be optimized for mobile, Flash was created primarily for desktops. A desktop experience on a mobile device offers a poor user experience, and this alone makes a site feel outdated.

Of course, Flash ads do have a few things going for them. They’re eye-catching. They’re fun. They’re interactive (and interactive ads are among the most effective). So does this mean all cool, creative, animated ads are gone? Definitely not.

Alternatives to Flash ads

Flash ads are outdated, but you still have great options. In fact, there are multiple alternatives because there isn’t one single technology that’s “taking over” for Flash. Here are the best alternatives, and the unique advantages and disadvantages of each.

Static banner ads

You know ‘em, and you love ‘em. Basic static banner ads are simple, clickable web images (usually JPG or PNG) without any animation. They’ve been around since the dawn of the internet, and they’re still incredibly effective.

Design by Kuz.Design for CampCrate
Design by Y Designs for Travelworld

The pros of static ads

Static banners are easy to make, and they load fast. They can communicate simple CTAs well and are especially effective with audiences who already know you. Give them a reminder or incentive about your business and product, and people will click.

The cons of static ads

Because of their limited space, static banners are not the best for complex messaging. They’re not interactive or animated and may be less eye-catching.

Animated GIF banner ads

You have probably seen lots of GIFs in the form of four-second memes of Ryan Gosling being an awesome boyfriend, but they can do a lot more than that. GIFs (or “Graphics Interchange Format” images) are widely supported, compressed images for the web. These types of banner ads are animated and can even feature short, silent video clips. Typically, GIFs play on their own and don’t need any input from users.

The pros of animated GIFs

GIFs provide a video-like experience that is very engaging. They’re fairly easy to create (even if you don’t have a lot of technical skill) all thanks to desktop and mobile apps that you can use build them on your own.

The cons of animated GIFS

Though they’re found pretty much everywhere online, occasionally GIFs don’t always animate on all devices or in all apps. In addition, they can be large files that can take several seconds to load. Compared to static banners, GIFs are also limited in their color palette and may not display images that are as vibrant.

HTML5 banner ads

Muppets! Here’s an awesome example of an HTML5 banner ad.

HTML5 banner ads are built with normal, everyday web code, and can contain images, text, audio and video. Because they’re built with code (instead of being a self contained file, like Flash), they can be dynamically and responsively optimized so that they can be viewed on any device.

The pros of HTML5 ads

HTML5 banner files are much larger than Flash files, but because it’s built with code that a browser understands, HTML5 typically loads much faster than a GIF. Most importantly, HTML5 ads look perfect no matter which device you’re using.

The cons of HTML5 ads

HTML5 can be a challenge to create because they require a working knowledge of HTML, CSS and usually JavaScript. Compared to other web technology, HTML5 isn’t that complex, but if you’re busy running a business and don’t want to take a  detour dealing with developers, it might not be your best choice.

Make the web flashy (without Flash)

Flash banner ads might be going away, but there are still all sorts of ways to create fun, creative, engaging ads for your business or brand. With static banners, animated GIFs and HTML5 ads, you’ve got plenty of tools at your disposal that can work on more devices and be even more effective than traditional Flash ads.

Need a custom banner ad designed? We do that!