Animated GIFs in Email
Posted by CJ Knowles, Business Development Manager, on 7/25/2013 12:58:00 PM.

Before I get going, a confession: I order a lot of takeout. I often work long hours, I have a long commute home... Iím a delivery restaurantís ideal target market. In light of that, I receive a lot of promotional emails from the online delivery service, a company that does a fantastic job of knowing my ordering habits and delivering its messages at the most hunger-inducing times. 

I recently received an email from Seamless in my Gmail account, and I was surprised to see that they had included an animated GIF image: 


Simple, effective, funny. Great email content.


Until somewhat recently, the adage has been that you should avoid animated images in email, as it is not supported by all email programs (most notably the recent versions of Outlook). But with an understanding of the limitations of GIFs, knowing your audience, and a little ListenerEmail know-how, you have an opportunity to add some real flair to your email campaigns.

Animated GIFs: What You Need to Know 

Before I get into the specifics, a quick crash course. An animated GIF is a series of images (frames) that plays like a video. You can insert them into ListenerEmail the same way you would insert a standard image, and when used creatively, they can add some focus and visual interest to your content. On the other hand, when used carelessly or in high volume, they can also make things look very tacky (for reference, please see the Geocities-izer).

For anyone with Adobe Photoshop and a few minutes, creating an animated GIF is simple. Here is a full walkthrough on that process, and YouTube also has tons of videos on the topic if you prefer seeing it in action. The actual creation of the animated GIF will have to be handled by an image editing program, so that's the only part that exists outside of PromoSuite Interactive. 

OK, But What Should I Make?

This is where your station's brand needs to start steering the ship. Who is your target market? What are they interested in? Where are they going on the internet? What's the current fad that is affecting their conversations and influencing their buying habits?

All of this knowledge is gold, because your email is going to bring your voice down to their level. GIFs are often funny or absurd, and the viral element of them comes from the need for people to share and repost them. You need to create something that is speaking the same language, with the same tone and humor as your listeners. And it should probably have something to do with your station, otherwise it might seem like you're pandering or trying too hard.

When it comes to the actual content of the GIF, start with keeping it relevant. Are you adding it to an email that is announcing an event or concert? How about putting a camera on a tripod in the parking lot and taking a series of photos of the weird stuff you're loading into the station van. Is there a specific jock making an appearance at a local business? Take a quick cellphone video of them doing something strange, open it on your computer, then take a series of screenshots of the video that you stitch back together as a GIF. If the punchline is something the person is saying, overlay it as text like they did on the Seamless image above.

It all amounts to producing something that is going to be funny or surprising to your listeners, so let your radio personalities shine - you speak to your listeners on a daily basis, so work in those same personas to the images and you should wind up with some great results.

How Can I Use This in My Email Campaigns?

So you've got your GIF, but you still have to add it to your email. Fortunately, you can insert an animated GIF into ListenerEmail the same as any other image!

The more important question is how do you determine who to send the email to. In general, the only guarantees you'll have are for webmail providers that we know support animated GIFs - Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, for the most part. The email client on iPhones and a few other places also support animated GIFs.
So that being said, there are two different tactics you can employ. First, you can always just send to specific email systems that you know support animated GIFs. Just run a simple search in ListenerEmail:

  • Go to Email Database > Database Tools
  • Type in * (or Yahoo, AOL, etc.)
  • Give it a second - this is going to give you a full list of every Gmail user in your database, so it might take a little time to load
  • When the list is done loading, scroll to the bottom of the page and hit "Send Custom Email" or "Send Template Email"
That's it! At this point you're back to the normal procedure of finding or creating your email and sending it out, only this time it's going to a list of people who can see your email in all of its animated GIF glory.
The second, and probably even smarter idea, is to just make sure the first frame of your animated GIF tells the whole story. This way you'll get the best of both worlds - if the email program uses animated images then great, but if it doesn't, the image will be static, but it will still make sense to the recipient.

In Summary

Animated GIFs are a great thing to keep in your digital toolbox for those times when you need to make an impact. As with anything on the internet, you just need to know their quirks and limitations, and find a way to make them work with whatever you're creating.

In the case of ListenerEmail (or any eblast system), GIF away, just make sure you're sending it to an email address that you know supports them. Go with Gmail, Yahoo and AOL, and you're in the clear. Mess with the others and your results may vary.

If you have any questions about applying these principles to your emails, feel free to give us a call at 212-509-1200 and we'll be happy to answer any questions. Thanks for reading, and happy GIFing!



ListenerEmail, Best Practices

CJ Knowles | Business Development Manager
Matt Jacobson | Product Development Manager
Rocco Macri | Founder/CEO
Andrew Smith | Manager, Client Relations
Mike Malone | Senior Client Relations Specialist & IT Manager David Cid | Client Relations Specialist
Nia Levy | Client Relations Specialist Barrie Luongo | Client Relations Specialist Ben Singer | Client Relations Specialist

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