The Pros and Cons of Converting Video Ads to Flash


Programmatic video inventory can run three to four times more than standard display, and for good reasons. See “Why is Video More Expensive Than Display?

But there is a clever little workaround that can be used to run your video assets for the same investment as standard display. You can do this by converting your video into a FLASH (.swf) file and then running that ad in a standard display ad space.

Now before you rush to do this, know that there are some pros and cons.


Because normal display ads appear practically everywhere, there is a lot more inventory. There’s way more display inventory available than there is true video inventory. That means you’ll rarely struggle to fulfill an order.

It’s also a lot less expensive. While video inventory can run twice, sometimes three to four times what display costs, running a video converted to flash costs the same as running a standard display ad.

So this strategy is a sensible way of getting your video asset seen in more places and for a lot less money.


The first hurdle you’re going to have to overcome is converting your video file to flash, or the .swf format. It’s not as simple as running your MP4 file through software that magically turns it into flash.

You’ll need a clicktag embedded in the flash file. And while clicktags are easy to add to regular video and display ads, they must be written directly into the code of a flash ad.

If this sounds complicated, it’s actually pretty common for a flash designer so it’s not a huge con if you have access to someone like that.

For more specifics on how to do this, visit

Next, we have to consider the shapes of the ads. Display ad spaces aren’t usually built for standard video. They’re squares and tall rectangles. That means that the size of the ad will have to be manipulated during the conversion to flash. It also means that the prospects may have to see those annoying black bars above and below or on the sides of your video. Either that, or the video will appear stretched or squashed, which is certainly not ideal.

One of the benefits of running video advertisements is in the reporting metrics. With standard video, you’ll get a viewer interaction report showing how many users watched 25% of your video, users that watched 50%, users that watched 75% of your video and users that completed the video. Some reporting even shows pause rate, mute rate, unmute rate and the number of users who watched the video in full screen mode.

There’s a lot of value in these metrics and they simply aren’t available when you run a video via Flash/standard display.

Another consideration is that most sites require flash ads to start without sound and are often paused until the ad is moused over or clicked. This means that the user will experience a static ad anyway, unless they choose to make it play. And since most display ads appear in the side rail while the user is consuming content in the center of the page, the likelihood that they will purposely play your ad is diminished.

And that leads to the final and largest disadvantage. Most browsers aren’t fans of flash because it uses too much memory and can sometimes cause the browser to be unresponsive and the device to freeze up. If you’re an iPhone user, you may know that Apple has not supported flash for years.

In fact, some say that it was Apple’s hard stance against Flash that has cut back on its adoption and decreased its use so much over the years.

Flash is very restricted on mobile devices with about 95% of mobile publishers blocking in banner video completely.

Chrome is also making some updates in response to Flash. Starting this fall, all Flash ads will be automatically paused until a user clicks on the ad to make it play. Then, if they are inspired by the ad, they have to click again to get to the website.

Forcing users to click twice to get to the advertiser’s site may have a negative impact on CTR.

Because of some of these browser issues, most exchanges will require you to submit a static ad to act as a backup ad for your Flash ads. It might be difficult to consolidate an entire video into a single static ad.

So is this strategy right for you? If you want to run your ads in a lot more places for a lot less money, then maybe it is. Just be prepared to deal with browser issues, ad size/shape issues, lack of mobile inventory and minimal reporting metrics.

Thanks for reading.

David McBee