All About eMail - Video in Email, A Primer
Move over “view online” links, “forward to a friend” options and links to assorted social media sites. Video is the latest craze among email marketers. Here’s four reasons why:
- the costs of creating and hosting videos is falling;
- increased access to high-speed internet has given more people the ability to view videos online;
- it’s become easier to create videos thanks to things like digital cameras and cell phones with video capture capabilities; and
- as the email channel matures, so do email subscribers. Simply receiving an email is no longer a novelty. Subscribers expect more of them.
New kind of moving image
Over the past year, there’s been some dabbling with adding video in email. But because of rendering issues, deliverability problems, time, resources, video size and other obstacles, video hasn’t become a permanent fixture in email marketing messages. Soon this will change, thanks to a new and powerful way to use video in email — through animated GIF images or video GIFs.
An animated GIF file is a graphic image that moves. This could be a flashing or spinning icon, or letters that magically get larger, for example. Technically, an animated GIF is a single file that’s created to display various images in a specific order. GIFs are most frequently used in web advertising banners, but there’s been a recent surge in emails.
Beyond flashing letters or moving icons, animated GIFs can create what looks like video embedded in email content. These videos present a visually unique and impressive message and, when used effectively, create a visual “wow” factor that stagnant images can’t. To really catch the attention of email openers, place the most noticeable animated GIFs above the fold.
One major difficulty of implementing animated GIFs is figuring out how to create something that looks like a video but remains a manageable size for email. Creating a long-playing animated GIF can take a lot of time and resources.
Another frustration is that many marketers have actual video files they want to convert into animated GIFs. However, that’s no easy task. But companies such as Liveclicker are poised to eliminate the problem. Liveclicker essentially turns animated GIFs into what it calls video GIFs. The only difference between animated GIFs and video GIFs is that video GIFs are derived from actual videos.
Getting a little help turning videos into animated GIFs isn’t a bad idea if you want to do it right.
Here are the best ways to use animated GIFs in email:
- Make the video the focal point of the email. Use it as a primary call to action rather than a supporting visual element. You want subscribers interacting with the GIF, not just passing over it.
- Ensure the first frame of the video looks good and displays the call to action. Only the first frame of a video GIF will display in Microsoft Outlook 2007 because Outlook 2007 only displays static images. First impressions are key.
- Pay attention to your video infrastructure, and keep video GIFs’ sizes to a minimum. Experiment with dithering — a technique that involves scattering different colored pixels in an image to make it appear clearer or brighter. You also can try measuring frame rate — which is the number of frames shown or sent each second — to reduce the bandwidth required of the end recipient. Reducing the number of colors per frame from 256 to 128 can reduce the size of a video GIF by a quarter without noticeably impacting quality.
- Measure the connection speeds of visitors on your website to get an idea of the percentage of your email audience using dial-up. If a large percentage of your audience is using dial-up, test video GIFs thoroughly before deploying to your entire list.
- Videos are typically no longer than 30 seconds to 45 seconds. Use subtitles or text to maintain attention.