No Flash ZoneAs direct response marketers, our needs are simple. We want a measurable change in behaviour. Applied to banner advertising this means more clicks, site visits, online quotes or attributable sales.

Fortunately in the digital space, it is far easier to test and assess effectiveness than some traditional channels. It is also easy to find international benchmarks for what is achievable. As a result, for a while now we have taken it for granted that Flash as a format is not the most powerful tool in the marketer’s armoury.

A quick review of the ads running on many of the local sites today suggests that not everyone agrees with this, so what is our rationale?

As a format, Flash added a desirable new edge to internet display advertising in the late 90s, with advantages like smooth animation and responsive interaction. So it became the darling of creative types looking to bring brand messages to life in digital spaces. But the writing has been on the wall for sometime in terms of responsiveness.

Here are 6 reasons we don’t recommend Flash to our clients.

1) Lower click rates.

Clicks are certainly not everything, but for generating clicks to a landing page or quote form, image-based display ads (GIF or JPG format) work almost twice as hard. According to Double Click benchmarks, average click rates over the last three months to end of July 2013 have been 0.22% for GIF/JPG banners against 0.12% for Flash.

2) Flash doesn’t work on smart phones.

The IPSOS/MediaCT Our Mobile Planet Study (May 2013) suggests smart phone penetration is now 54% in New Zealand. And 74% of these people use their phone to research products and services they want to buy. That’s a lot of people that expensive-to-produce Flash ads won’t get to.

3) Lower brand impact.

As evidenced in the Double Click/Dynamic Logic Guide to Building Brand Engagement with Display, Aided Brand Awareness is most effective via GIF/JPG formats overall. Brand Favourability is similar after multiple viewings, but with a single exposure an image is 5 times as effective as Flash. Message Association is also better. In fact, image-based ads outperform Flash by more than 4 times after a single viewing and continue to work harder after beyond that.

4) Lower impact on sales.

Purchase intent is more effectively influenced using a GIF/JPG format. According to Dynamic Logic MarketNorms analysis, image formats are shown to be more than 3 times as effective as Flash.

5) They are expensive.

Every version and every variation in size format of a Flash banner needs to be coded. This naturally takes time and money. Given the evidence, surely this money is better spent elsewhere?

6) Rich media does a better job.

Rich media ads offer infinite creative opportunities and get the best results in terms of engagement. So many people never get to benefit from all the effort and cost that has gone into a Flash execution – they just see a static GIF. With Rich Media, the extra investment pays off. According to Comscope’s AdEffx Study, rich media ads demonstrate lifts in awareness, purchase intent, product favourability and message understanding. This results in boosts to site visitation, related keyword searches and ultimately improved conversion and ROI.

So in summary, if it’s about offer-led buy now ads that can be turned around quickly, are cost effective to produce, keep it simple and go for image-based formats. If you want a deeper brand engagement, the investment in rich media is likely to prove worthwhile.