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Lights, Camera, Action: Animation In Email

Marketers are always on the lookout for ways to make their communication stand out and entice readers to engage with their emails. There are many tools and techniques to test in your emails, but one tactic that has taken center stage recently is animation in email. GIFs are nothing new - the format was developed by US-based software writer Steve Wilhite in 1987 - but they have had resurgence of late. Just take a look through your inbox, many marketers have begun using interactive elements, such as animated GIFs, to spike interest and ultimately increase engagement. We’ve put together some tips on why and how to use animation, and included a few use cases for you to try out in your next campaign.

What is a GIF?

There is still much debate over how to actually pronounce it, but a GIF is an excellent marketing tool - so let’s get to know it better. A GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is essentially an image file (like a JPG or PNG) but most importantly it can also be animated. This graphic file includes a rapid display of images, producing the illusion of motion. The animation can vary from scenes from a video to a series of multiple still frames or images.

Why should you use animation?

So, now we know what a GIF is, why should you consider using them in your comms? There are a number of benefits to using animation in you emails, including:

  • A video alternative - As video is still poorly supported in email, an animated GIF can be a great equivalent.
  • Compressed information - GIFs are a great way of condensing a lot of information or images into a single piece of content. They can be engaging whilst still containing lots of detail.
  • Higher engagement - Movement can encourage users to click-through to a landing page or offer, and therefore serves as a great call-to-action. A GIF-based campaign from Dell increased conversions by 103%, demonstrating if used correctly and strategically, animation can have a positive impact on your engagement rates.
  • Add humour - As highlighted in our recent Emoji in email blog post, animation adds some fun to your comms and allows you to get creative and use clever humour.
  • Show off - If you have a new feature or a refreshed tool, animation is a great way to generate buzz, show off your excitement, and be educational.

7 examples of when and where to use animation

There are a number of ways you can include animation in email. The key is to make sure they are relevant, serve a particular purpose and don’t overwhelm the design, message or CTA. Below are some examples you could include in your upcoming comms.

1. Create interest around a special promotion or movie release.
Maybe you have a 2-for-1 ticket promotion or want to drive attendance for an upcoming movie at your cinema. A GIF can draw readers into this special promotion. Or you might like to switch a film poster or image out and use a GIF instead.

Animation in email GIF 1.gif

2. You may have launched a new version of your website, introduced an app or refreshed your loyalty program and want to generate excitement around it.
Aside from encouraging engagement, an animation could also help explain any changes or additions you’ve made to your loyalty program, or how to use an updated feature in a visually-stimulating, simple way.  

3. Encourage pre-sale tickets by drawing attention to an upcoming release.
Adding an animation for a specific movie can draw attention, add some hype and persuade the reader to complete your CTA for pre-sale tickets for example.  

4. You could use a GIF to advertise and encourage a reader to join your membership program.
This allows you to combine the multiple benefits of joining into one image, as well as shining the spotlight and encouraging click-throughs to your signup page.

Animation in email GIF 2.gif

5. Add interest to your weekly or monthly newsletter.
With a regular campaign such as a newsletter it can be hard to keep the content fresh and engaging for readers. Using an animation allows you to add some humour and have fun with a regular email. Just remember not to overwhelm the newsletter with animation - the placement and number of times it’s featured should always be strategic.

6. Promote a special event.
If you have a special screening coming up, perhaps with a Q&A, you might like to use 3 or 4 images from previous Q&As to better illustrate the event you are promoting.

7. Use a GIF to promote your concession items.
An animation can help bring to life concession items like popping popcorn or pouring drinks and encourage members to make a purchase.

Top Tips for Creating Your Own and Using GIFs

GIFs could be tricky to master if you don’t understand the basics of adding them to your emails. Follow our steps below for success:

Support a message - Keeping that in mind, adding a GIF just because you can isn’t always a great idea. Think about what you want your readers to do (you might want to add a CTA, drive them to your website, etc.), and the best way to pair information with visuals. The main focus of an email campaign should always be the content, and GIFs should be used to support your message rather than distract the reader.

Prioritize the first frame - When designing animated content for your campaigns, think about what information will show up in the first frame. Not all email clients support animated GIFs and will, instead, show only the first frame of your animation. Remember what message you want your readers to receive, and ensure the CTA is clearly conveyed in the first frame if the animation fails.

Animation in email - email client list.png

Short frames - It’s best to keep your animation short and simple. Big files will take longer to render and animate, and they also eat up a lot of data if readers are reading your email from a mobile device. A good rule to follow is to keep frame rates for illustrated animations around 15fps, and around 25fps for videos that are converted into GIFs.

Test and analyze - Tools such as A/B Testing are a great way to see if adding an element such as animation has had an impact on your metrics and resonated with your audience.

Animate fewer elements - Your animation doesn’t need to change in every frame, and you can animate sections of your GIF instead of the whole thing.

Exporting + saving your file - Find our top tips for creating and exporting GIFs for Photoshop, After Effect and other alternatives in this document.

Be aware of copyright - If you are using creatives from movies make sure to include a copyright reference in your animation or next to it, otherwise it could be a copyright breach.

In summary

GIFs can communicate your message quickly, and can break down complicated and/or long ideas into a few frames in a small space, as well as adding fun and dynamism to your email. If used properly, animation can be a powerful addition to your campaign, just remember to use it wisely to maximize the effect. Here are our key takeaways:

  • Make sure the animated content has a purpose in your story. Think about how it should be used to help deliver your message, instead of distracting your readers.
  • Think about animation placement in the email body, and lead your readers eyes to your call-to-action.
  • If possible, deliver your message in the first frame. Remember not all email clients display animated GIFs correctly.
  • Test and learn, by measuring your clicks and conversions from animated GIFs. Also, keep in mind that A/B testing can be great way to compare this.
  • Keep it simple. Try and limit GIFs to one per email for a clean, relevant and engaging message.
  • Optimize the file size. A large GIF may not load, or might take too long to render.

Do you use animation in your emails? Let us know and share your ideas below!

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