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Animated gifs & email marketing

Posted by Michael Bloch in web marketing (Thursday April 26, 2007 )

It’s not something you see a lot of these days, but some companies have been trialing animated gif images in their email campaigns with surprising results.

According to this case study on Marketing Sherpa, Lake Champlain Chocolates experienced a sales increase of 49% at Christmas in relation to a campaign using animated gifs compared with a campaign the previous year. A small test run before Valentine’s Day saw the recipients who received the animated .gif version clicked through over 200% more often than those with just a static image.

This is very interesting, especially when you take into account that many users have images turned off by default in their email software/account and the animated images used were a whopping 700kb!

The important points here are that the images were embedded in the email rather than calling back to the server (otherwise it would have taken a horribly long time to load) and a link was provided to an online version of the campaign for those who were blocking images.

I’d advise against trying to use animated gifs of this size unless you:

a) Consult with your host/list service first to ensure that this type of mailout doesn’t breach their terms of service – big file size emails to large lists can create a lot of server load.

b) For the online version of the campaign, ensure you have a fast server. I’m on a 1.5 mb connection and the samples of the campaign hosted on Marketing Sherpa’s server took a long time to load; long enough that the impact of the campaign was lost.

c) Keep the animated gif file size down right down anyway if you’re not 100% certain that the people you’ll be emailing are all on broadband. A 700k email will turn a mild mannered dialup user into a chain-saw wielding psychopath – and rightly so. There are still plenty of people using dialup connections. I feel that even a 100kb image is even pushing it.

People have broadband for a reason – speed; just because the bandwidth is there, doesn’t mean we should suck up every ounce of it with our own blurb :).

Another interesting aspect of Lake Champlain Chocolates was the color of links chosen in the email – red for Christmas and pink for Valentine’s Day. Different colored links on a call to action can help attract the reader’s eye.

You can read more about the animated .gif email trial here (free access for a limited time)

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2 comments for Animated gifs & email marketing
  1. Not to mention that Outlook 2007 strips animated gif’s of their animation completely, leaving only the static, first slide only. It’s hard to imagine Sherpa’s study will show the same results next Xmas and V-day considering Outlook makes up the lion’s share of business email.


    Comment by Jonathan Aizlewood — April 26, 2007 @ 3:09 pm

  2. Thanks Jon, that’s a really good point. There’s all the other Outlook 2007 nasties for email marketers as well. I haven’t tried testing it on my system as yet after a few colleagues installed it last year and wound up with all sorts of problems, but compatibility issues are certainly making some marketers foam at the mouth from what I’ve read on the topic.

    Comment by Michael Bloch — April 26, 2007 @ 3:41 pm

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