Why you need to use Video and GIFs in your emails | DMA

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Why you need to use Video and GIFs in your emails


The GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is a 1980’s creation that has stood the test of time and remained a popular method of adding motion and animation to an email, helping campaigns to stand out from the crowd. So how can we bring back the Eighties into our modern email campaigns but leave the spandex and bad perms firmly in the past?

The difference between Gifs and Video

Although the GIF file is a video feature, there are some key differences you need to know.

1. Video has sound, animated GIFs do not.
2. Some formats of video have high resolution and high picture quality, but the GIF has just 256 colours available.
3. Video size is larger, GIF size is smaller.

You can see then, how a GIF could be a valuable addition to an email campaign, allowing you to add animation without clogging up your customer’s inboxes (trust us, large file formats which are slow to load are an easy way to lose subscribers). GIFs in all their low-picture quality glory have managed to retain a certain air of nostalgia, so far from turning customers off, they’re actually a useful way to tap into your target market’s psyche.

GIF-tastic emails

Still not convinced about how valuable GIFs could be? What if we told you that video email marketing has a 280% return on investment in comparison to dreary old plain-text? GIF emails have a slightly lower ROI but it’s still an improvement! Now, have we sold you on the GIF idea? Good! Next you need to know how to incorporate them into your email campaign.

Remember that animated GIFs and Flash are not guaranteed to work in all email clients, so run a test to see how the email will appear in different inboxes. That way, you’ll pick up on any discrepancies and be able to tweak the campaign before it goes out. Fortunately, email clients are more likely to support GIF than video, so you shouldn’t find this too much of a hurdle.

If you can’t find the GIF you want, it’s also ridiculously easy to create one yourself and there are plenty of free software programs out there that will help you put one together. We’d suggest staying away from cat GIFs though. They’re cute, but unless you’re selling kitty litter or catnip it’s not worth including a GIF just for the sake of it. They need to be as relevant as any other image included in your campaign.

Another top tip is to avoid using JavaScript – most email clients block it as a security precaution and this creates an automatic barrier to stop your message reaching its intended recipient. Don’t fall down at the last deliverability hurdle!

Common mistakes

Microsoft Outlook uses Word to render HTML email, so GIFs and animated content don’t always display well. Compatibility issues can cause only the first frame of the GIF to display which can render them effectively unfit-for-purpose as an eye-catching element to your campaigns, and users have to set the GIF to repeat which gives a poor user experience.

To make up for this, we recommend that you produce your file so that the first frame contains the most important information and is seen straight away without a need for animation. If in doubt, include a static image which tells the story of your animated content.

When you’re designing emails that contain animated content, remember to always plan how to minimise the impact on the overall campaign if the animated content fails. Whilst of course we advocate having a campaign so sophisticated that failure is unlikely, it can happen to the best of us so it’s always good to have a back-up plan.

On a practical note, it’s also best to edit your animated content prior to uploading it into your email software as this gives better control over the file size. It’ll save you a lot of heartache than trying to edit the image in your email software. Don’t worry, you can thank us later.

4 Quick Animated Content ideas

Fashion brands and retailers could create a GIF that puts together an outfit from your new clothing line.

Show how a product works through a step-by-step demonstration.

Technology deals can be animated with images on their screens.

Open your inbox now – we guarantee there’ll be dozens of GIF-laden festive emails to give you some inspiration!


Depending on your industry and how you are using animated content, always remember to consider how your email will come across if the video element fails. Test with a variety of email platforms and also test your email without the video content to see how it looks.

If in doubt, simplify your email campaign or look for professional advice, we’re here to help!

Interested in learning more about email design? We've got a guide for that!Learn about simplified email design and make your emails stand out in the inbox Download the guide

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