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Animated GIFs in Email: Three Great Examples and Five Quick Tips

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Animated GIFs pervade my RSS reader and make up at least 98.7% of every BuzzFeed list; they have even become currency in many company chat rooms and email messages.

Thoughtful, eye-catching animation in email has the ability to complement a marketing message rather than distract from it.

At Emma (where I work), we compiled content on how to effectively use GIFs in email marketing, including three customer examples. So here are three ways Emma customers have used animated GIFs to make their email campaigns pop.

1. Tell a story

When Los Angeles designer Paul Marra moved his showroom to a new location, he used Emma to get the word out to his clients. The animated GIF tells the whole story, from the trail on the map to the "We've moved!" banner to the new address listing. It's lighthearted, stylish, and inviting.

See the GIF in action:

2. Draw attention to the most important thing

Emma customer Method is known for its use of coordinating color in product placement and text styles and white space to create an airy feeling in every email. In this email, Method used an animated GIF to draw focus on its 20% off promotion. It's subtle and completely in line with the company's aesthetic and does the job of drawing attention to the promotion.

See the GIF in action:

3. Show multiple products

If you're an online retailer, animated gifs can change the way email subscribers engage with your product. Consider this example from Emma customer Birds Barbershop: Isn't this animated image much more compelling than a static grid of hair products?

See the GIF in action:

Here are 5 quick tips for using animated GIFs in email campaigns

  1. Keep your animation simple. If you can say the same thing in four frames that you can in eight, opt for the shorter sequence.
  2. Make sure your animation reinforces a major point of your campaign. If it's just for show, it's... well, just for show.
  3. Consider combining animated GIFs with Flash. If you've got a compelling Flash presentation on your website, put together a simpler version as an animated GIF. Include the GIF in your email, but link it to the page with the fancy Flash version.
  4. Try a simple test. If you're not sure whether animation will help you make your point, try sending an animated version to half your audience, and send a regular image to the other half.
  5. Watch your file size. We recommend keeping your entire email's size to under 40K so it's easily managed by servers and inboxes. Plan your animated GIF accordingly, and opt for simpler colors and graphics in your frames to keep the file size in check.

"Teamwork" image via Urs' Learning Journal.

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Emily Konouchi is director of content and communications at Emma, an email marketing software and services provider that helps organizations of all sizes get more from their marketing. She is also the director Emma’s communal dishwasher-emptying efforts, but only when she has writer’s block.

Twitter: @emikonouchi

Google+: Emily Konouchi

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  • by Cathy Wed Nov 27, 2013 via web

    Emily, nice article - to the point and great examples. What animated .gif creators do you recommend using?

  • by Ed Wed Nov 27, 2013 via web

    I love gifs, but was frustrated that Microsoft Outlook didn't support this. So unless the receiver opened up the browser version of the email, the gif didn't work and simply looked like a still jpg (first frame). Has something changed?

  • by Peter Medvin Wed Nov 27, 2013 via web

    What is the best email service for integrating GIFs? Thanks.

  • by Cash One Sun Dec 1, 2013 via web

    Hello, Its a nice article and really impressive. Its great idea to add some value with the mails. Such gifts will boost the sale of the product, Thanks for sharing such a creative and innovative idea.

  • by David Sun Dec 1, 2013 via web

    As Ed commented, MS Outlook doesn't support animated GIFs and it holds about 20% of the email clients share. So I'd be careful using GIFs with messages and stories that wouldn't be seen by customers. Showing more products is fine, telling a story would be risky - in the examples above, about 20% of Paul Mara's recipients saw only a bird looking at a map.
    So, if one wants to use animated GIFs in an email, the best practice is to put the message in the first image.

  • by Mon Dec 2, 2013 via web

    Thanks for sharing. Good examples.

  • by Emily Konouchi Mon Dec 2, 2013 via web

    @Cathy Thanks for saying so! We use Photoshop to create simple animated gifs, but AfterEffects can be used to build something more fluid, like the Paul Marra example. You'll find plenty of free services and tutorials in a "How to create an animated gif" Google search, but I don't have personal experience with them. Maybe other readers can chime in!

  • by Emily Konouchi Mon Dec 2, 2013 via web

    @Ed You're right -- Microsoft Outlook 2007 and 2010 only display the first frame of an animated gif. And @David makes a great point about relying too heavily on the gif to carry the story. According to Litmus, Outlook currently holds the #2 spot in email client market share, so it's worth the extra effort to cater your animated gif to that audience or ensure you have enough supporting content to get your message across without animation.

  • by Emily Konouchi Mon Dec 2, 2013 via web

    @Peter Why, Emma, of course! Okay, I'm biased, but Emma's email marketing service supports animated gifs, includes a bunch of other must-have features like responsive templates, mobile preview and subject line split testing, and has top-notch customer service. You can check out Emma for yourself at

  • by Arienne Holland Tue Dec 3, 2013 via web

    Emily, I'm so happy to read good, specific tips about using animated GIFs in emails. Your advice to use them to draw attention to the most important thing is spot on, and I haven't heard anyone else talk about how animated GIFs can tell a story.

    While I disagree that animated GIFs in email are a good way to show off multiple products — a point of view that I explained on Raven's blog: — I also appreciate that you emphasize simplicity, testing and file size.

    Compatibility is also an issue, so David and Ed make great points. Think of your first frame as a standalone illustration that conveys all information necessary — then build your animation from there.

    But. BUT. *cough* Flash websites? Do those even exist anymore? If so, WHY? ;)

    Hello from Raven's offices in the Gulch :)

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