HTML5 is great for website development. The subtler, yet more interesting story about HTML5 is that it has incredible potential to make advertising both rich and scalable, especially as publishers and advertisers grapple with the requirement to serve slick creative to all devices. As a result, the W3C standard that is "not ready for production yet" is gaining tremendous popularity on mobile and tablet devices and has become a major game changer for mobile display advertising.There have been a lot of posts about how
Why is this story particularly exciting right now? Just this month, commonly implemented ad serving platforms, such as Google with its Doubleclick DART ad serving platform and various other platforms used by premium publishers have been or are being upgraded to also track impressions on the mobile device. This method is called client side counting, and when desktop ad servers started using client side counting on the web back nearly 10 years ago, that made a huge difference in the confidence of an advertiser to believe in the new metrics they were receiving from digital advertising.
While this somewhat esoteric technical issue seems minor, the advent of client side counting on mobile is a big deal for mobile display advertising. Aside from the ability to create richer ads that can be served in broad range of mobile sites and apps, this measurement issue had been the second most important impediment for agencies to easily plan, create and track mobile campaigns.
Unlike on the desktop, this next version of HTML is not receiving a lot of competition on mobile devices from plug-in technologies like Microsoft Silverlight and Adobe Flash in the area of cross-browser compatible animation and video technology. For a rapidly growing category of media tablets and app phones, it turns out, developers have turned to HTML5 for its easy distribution, great graphical abilities and flexible audio/video features.
Even technology evangelists of plug-in technologies such as Flash would agree that choosing the right tools for a job, means using the simplest tool that supports all your needs - HTML5. But for a while, the advantages of HTML5 for the purpose of mobile advertising were hiding in plain sight.
Only last year, the creative work for mobile ad campaigns were often done by a select group of specialized companies. The solutions were partly proprietary and ad servers were tied to specific proprietary ad units. This situation fragmented the mobile media buys so much that the effort to plan a sizable campaign was problematic.
Realize that to serve an ad campaign on mobile apps or on mobile websites, there is the major issue of device technology fragmentation to overcome as well. Even if limiting the campaign to the latest smart phones, there are various screen sizes, a handful of operating systems, dozens of browser versions, and hundreds of device models that the ad units will have to be displayed on. This is where HTML5 has filled a need very well.
The web container required to render the ad unit in the mobile browsers is also included in native applications and provides a level of uniformity for serving ads onto different platforms. A broadly supported advertising industry consortium called ORMMA (Open Rich Media Mobile Advertising) had engineers work for the past year on standard API's and guidelines to help ad tech companies the rest of the way towards interoperability. This is now turning into a HTML5 fueled ecosystem of beautiful, innovative and interactive ad campaigns.
For creative agencies to edit HTML5-based ad creatives, there is now Tumult's Hype, Sencha's Animator, Adobe's tools and many others for quickly implementing advanced animations and interactions. For media agencies and publishers, there are working groups at the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) who are creating guidelines, defining formats and addressing general interoperability issues related to mobile rich media advertising.
It may seem that Apple focuses on native technology only. Apple, in fact, uses HTML5 to deliver iAds. However, they are not using HTML5 in an open way, so creative agencies cannot customize ad features and UI, which is a very big part of the value that top creative agencies provide. The phase that is upon us is one where HTML5 advertising technology is decoupled from ad networks like iAd.
What we see in the future with open approaches to the delivery of HTML5 advertising is an open ecosystem where every creative agency can design ads for the Web and apps on the 175 MM + Apple devices, 100 MM+ Android devices and a growing number of HTML5 capable RIM, Nokia and Windows devices.
Although most of the discussion around HTML5 has been about site building and the arms race between websites and apps, advertising is arguably one of the most remarkable accomplishments of HTML5 so far - and we are still several years before the standard is officially finished.
Photo by sqback.