Animated GIFs in Email Marketing – Novelty or Utility?

By November 21, 2015 Email Marketing 2 Comments

Amazon uses Animated GIFs in their email marketing

Last night I received an email from Amazon that I viewed on my smartphone showcasing their upcoming Black Friday deals. It looked fairly standard in presentation, with a television, a computer and a tablet showcased in the email. Being in marketing, we see hundreds of presentations, blog posts and emails that have similar pictures. We are in a multi-device world, blah blah. But what made Amazon’s email different was that the image on all 3 of the screens displayed in their email were animated GIFs!
Amazon Black Friday Animated Gif
These images rendered beautifully on my phone, with the animations seamlessly working with little noticeable effect on download time. When I got home, I noticed the same thing in my Mac mail client. Beautiful animation. Even though the email is simply an enticement for me to go to Amazon’s website and purchase, I have kept it in my inbox so that I can constantly refer back to it as a good example of inviting emails. That is something that almost never happens for email marketing campaigns.

Are Animated GIFs the future of Email Marketing?

This remains to be seen. While both animated GIFs and Email Marketing are more than 15 years old, I rarely recall seeing them working in harmony in email marketing campaigns. I am guessing this is for a few reasons:

  • Not all email clients can render animated GIFs – it may even be that the majority of email clients do not render them properly (we’re talking about you, Outlook)
  • It takes much more time to create them – While many marketers work off an editorial calendar, rarely do you have the time needed to plan out, animate and code an individual emails
  • Creative, strategy and delivery teams are not coordinated – Creative may be in a different department (or different agency) than strategy and delivery, and they may not talk to each other during the email creation process
  • Fear of Change – Maybe companies are just afraid to implement something so radical?

Because the cycle of planning and sending emails is often date driven and under the gun to get out on time, it becomes very difficult to add extra frills to the campaign. Animated GIFs add extra time that many people simply do not have available. Amazon is able to do this because they likely have a tightly integrated team who is able to plan out these executions. As is the case with most E-commerce innovation, Amazon is clearly a leader in email marketing for e-commerce as well.

How do I get Animated GIFS in my Email Marketing?

Try starting with a full service agency that has creative, strategy and delivery services under one roof. Three Deep has developed all of these core competencies into our email marketing team, our teams sit right next to each other, and we would love the opportunity to take on your groundbreaking and challenging email marketing campaigns!

Author Three Deep

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  • Jeremiah Johnson

    I think the biggest roadblock is, ‘It takes much more time to create them’.

    The image shown is pretty complex for your average person to create. Given this is from Amazon, I’m sure they have a talent and resource pool they can tap into where this isn’t a big deal.

  • Felicity McNamara

    Excellent article! You make a valid point and I agree that using animated GIFs in e-mail campaigns is an excellent way to create more engaging content and big MNCs are already implementing them! I have a lot of clients requesting “video” or movement in e-mail campaigns but odds are no one’s going to click on a link, download anything, or press play and wait for it to load. I tell them to let me try using GIFs instead because they’re an ideal medium for digital marketing especially in e-mails because they’re instant open and play and don’t add to the file size or load time. With e-mail marketing having an annual growth rate of 20%, making yours stand out is definately worth looking into. I used to spend hours on Photoshop creating these “Cinemagraph” like animated GIFs at my old job (graphics/creative for a full service marketing firm in LA) like the one you shared above but since I’ve gone freelance and don’t have access to Photoshop (expensive!) I do it online on a website called Their blog also has some info but when I e-mailed them, they sent me loads of data, articles, blog posts, and examples of GIFs in marketing I’ve been able to use when pitching my services to clients. Anyway, I think GIFs in e-mails are here to stay!

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