HTML5: Desktop vs. MobileBefore we begin talking about the challenges that face HTML5 video ads, it's valuable to acknowledge that video in HTML5 can behave very differently on the desktop compared to the same HTML code running on mobile devices. Here are some of the primary differences:
|HTML5 Desktop||HTML5 Smartphone||HTML5 Tablet|
|Companion Ads||Yes||Not visible||Yes|
|Available Bandwidth (probable)||LAN/WAN||3G/4G/WAN||3G/4G/WAN|
* Platform-specificAs you can see from the table above, some concepts that advertisers take for granted, such as video ads which cause a web page to be displayed when clicked, are not possible on smartphones. For example, on most mobile devices, once an HTML5 video begins playing, whether it's an ad or not, the phone will enter fullscreen video playback mode. In this mode, the user has full control over the playing video, including the ability to seek to the end of it.
Technical ChallengesAs the major ad networks are beginning to offer support for HTML5 video ads, they face several important challenges.
Video Codec Incompatibility (WebM vs. MP4)One issue which HTML5 video publishers are already familiar with is that to support all platforms, video must be encoded into multiple formats — WebM (or Ogg Theora) for Firefox, and H.264 for everything else. Second, someone (whether the browser, ad network, video player, or publisher) will need to select the appropriate format and display it to the user. This can be difficult to implement in an ad scenario, especially if ad networks don't account for the user's browser when generating an ad response.
<Video> Tag AccessDepending on the implementation, most ad networks require direct access to the player's <video> tag in order to play an ad in HTML5. This makes sense, considering that in iOS, each distinct <video> tag placed on a page needs to be clicked by the user in order for the video to be played. If the ad were to be played in a new <video> tag which was placed on top of the player, the user would need to click "play" twice - once for the ad and another time to watch the main video. This presents some interesting problems. While the ad is playing, the player needs to treat the events flowing from the <video> tag differently than if the main video were playing. After the ad has played, the video tag needs to be restored to its original state (the video playing, its position, etc).
Industry RoundupConsidering the relative newness of HTML5 video (and the challenges listed above), it's unsurprising that not many video ad networks have implemented full HTML5 support yet. That being said, there are a few ad networks who have made some progress on this front:
- Google recently released HTML5 support in their Interactive Media Ads (IMA) product. This implementation allows publishers to set up VAST ads, with certain limitations based on device compatibility. The JW Player's Google IMA Plugin includes beta support for HTML5 mode.
- YuMe has been steadily improving their HTML5 support, which is now supported in the JW Player's HTML5 mode via the YuMe plugin.
- Most other video ad networks (Tremor, SpotXchange, BrightRoll, and others) have either announced, or are currently implementing support for mobile devices, which will mean HTML5-compatible ad media.