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What to Watch Out For

Flash is cool, Flash is great. Rah, rah. Well, not everything is perfect. Flash is no less a different media that you can leverage. It does come with its own pitfalls. The most common traps to watch with Flash are the following:

  • File Size
  • Version Control
  • Too busy

File Size

Keep it simple is my axiom for life. For Flash it could be "keep it small." Any file you put on the Web must be downloaded. This is a fact. Even over high-speed Internet connections this can drop down to a little trickle when all the kids in the neighborhood jump on Instant Messenger around 4:00 PM. So, make sure that your online ads are no more that 10Kb in size. Small? Yes, it is. But, many advertisers will not take files for their ad rotations that are larger than this.

Files that are larger take longer to load. Typically, the amount of time your customers have to watch your ad is very small (as little as three seconds) — no one is going to wait thirty seconds for an ad to download.

Version Control

Macromedia is very good at telling us that more than 98.6 percent of all Internet enabled users have Flash installed on their computers. This figure is correct. What is overlooked is that there are six versions of the Flash player (not including the original Flash player by FutureWave). The latest version was only released in April of 2002. Each player allows Flash to do more interactive and creative functions. But, if you create an ad designed specifically for a Flash 6 Player, then your customer will undoubtedly have to install the player (over 500Kb) to view a 10Kb ad. Not a good move.

The alternative is to design for the largest audience penetration. Statistically, this is Flash 4 (almost all of the 98.6 percent of users will have Flash 4 or above). This allows a measure of ActionScript to be used in your movie. No, you will not have all of the bells and whistles of Flash MX, but you can still have a very slick ad.

Too Busy

Time is against us all on the Web. Remember, as a marketing manager you are only one click away from anonymity. One factor that will certainly drive your customers nuts are commercials that are too busy.

It is all too easy to create an ad that is too clever and leaves your audiences behind. The aim of advertising is to drive home the importance of your brand. There are many Flash ads that pop up and make me go "ooh, that is cool," but unfortunately, I wouldn't be able to tell you what the ad was for.

A company that successfully matches cool with smart advertising in Flash is Dell. Frequently their ads give their customers the option to click through elegant presentations. The trick that makes their ads effective is that their name is branded across the ad at all times.

Also, do not place sound in your ad. Even a small sound file will be larger than your complete ad and the end effect may well be more annoying than entertaining.

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