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  • Writer's pictureTom Kothman

The 12 Second Challenge

#5 of 7: Barriers to Email Marketing Success for Small Business

Using Videos in Email Marketing

According to Litmus, the average time that a recipient spends reading an email increased to 13.4 seconds in 2018, up from 11.1 seconds in 2016.

In practice this means that you have very little time to a) initially engage the recipient sufficiently to b) then read your content. Animated content, if chosen with intelligence, can increase the likelihood of a recipient staying with your email long enough to engage with the content … if even only for 12 seconds. Videos and animated GIFs are one way to create some engagement “bait”.


Videos can be problematic. Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook do not support embedded videos. That’s why creating a still image (screenshot) of your chosen video with a play button which acts as the call-to-action, and a link to the video, , is a popular alternative. If your screenshot does not have a Play button, you can go to Add Play Button to Image and add one of the 20 pre-designed buttons. Yes, it’s an extra step but if the video with play button is visible above the fold, you’ll increase the odds your contact will read your content. But your contact may not come back to your content.

For a more comprehensive look at adding videos to your email, see this useful blog post, Embed Video in Emal , from Hubspot.


GIF (a file in Graphics Interchange Format) was introduced by CompuServe on June 15, 1987, to provide a color image format for their file downloading areas. At the time of its introduction, it was hot stuff! Gradually the file format was enhanced and worked its way in animated format into Netscape Navigator (1995). In May, 2015, Facebook added support for GIF.

[Source: Wikipedia]

In the last 5 years, especially during the COVID pandemic, GIFs have become a popular alternative to videos, whether embedded or as screenshots.. According to IG Media Lab,

”There are three drivers of GIF’s enduring popularity (beyond the technical reasons of universal browser support and low bandwidth use).

  • First, it allows people to quickly express their emotional response when words just won’t do.

  • Second, it conveys a sense of identity on the user’s behalf through the pop culture references it carries.

  • Third, it capitalizes on the meme culture that constantly churns out new references that in turn form our larger digital culture.”

Most major email providers now offer user-friendly functionality for uploading and adding GIFs to emails and accompanying advice. For instance, ActiveCampaign offers this advice:

The pros of using GIFs in email are that GIFs:

  • Can show you how a product works without pelting you with a ton of text

  • Create a level of interaction that a stationary image can’t

  • Are a great replacement for embedded video – which is not supported by most email clients

  • Make an email more personal and, well let’s just say it – FUN!

  • Can increase your click-through rates, open rates, and revenue.

The cons of using animated GIFs in email are that GIFs:

  • Are not supported in all email clients (just a few short of all)

  • Can slow download time when they aren’t properly optimized

  • Can irritate some people if too much is moving in the message

  • Distract from the important email content:

If you would like to try using GIFs in email on ActiveCampaign for free, click here

Constant Contact likewise provides a “How To” tutorial, showing how to easily add an image, including an animated GIF, into email campaigns.

How to create your own GIF

There are multiple ways to create your own GIF. The most widely used service is Giphy but others do the job as well such as Imgflip. I created this animated gif from a YouTube video on my first visit to Imgfllip in less than 10 minutes. The interface is intuitive and simple. I used the free service. Going Pro is $9.95 per month and among other benefits removes the Imgflip watermark.

Action Item #1: Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to create your own animated GIF on either Giphy or Imgflip”

Action Item #2: Create an A/B test where A has a video or GIF and the other doesn’t. After 48 hours calculate the CTR for each.

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