Animated GIFs in emails: Developing beyond static

As an avid online shopper, I frequently receive email offers from online retailers. One such email that arrived from Amazon during Black Friday week really caught my eye (see below). It was an impressive use of an animated GIF image to provide subtle, but powerful, enhancement to the retailer’s message.

To me, it says, “Time to cozy up with a [please buy me] and enjoy a relaxing evening.” And somehow they managed to connect that cozy fireplace with what they were trying to sell. It worked – and I don’t even have a fireplace.

Amazon Animated Gif

Why use animated GIFs

Animated GIFs have been around a long time. While they’re often the means for creating annoying, flashy banner ads, they can also be the agent of subtle enhancement as shown by the example above.

Support for GIFs in email clients

Surprisingly, animated GIFs are well supported by email clients. With the exception of Outlook and Windows Mobile 7 – which only displays the first frame – all major email clients play GIFs. Even lesser-used clients like Lotus Notes support GIFs as far back as version 6.

Use animated GIFs responsibly

Keep in mind, animated GIFs are a tool, not a weapon, and should only be used as subtle enhancements to a message, not as a megaphone to scream it. Animated GIFs are not an alternative for video since file sizes should be kept small and GIFs are ideally suited for something like the fireplace mentioned above that can run smoothly and indefinitely with no observable beginning and end. So with this word of caution, kindle your creativity and see if an animated GIF would enhance a future email.

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