DOs and DON’Ts for Animated GIFs

Animated GIFs can be a great way to make your email stand out, but there are a few things to keep in mind when using them. Check out my DOs and DON’Ts for using animations in emails.

DO: EMPHASIZE YOUR CALL TO ACTION

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 10/16/15
Subject Line: Win a Full Ski Outfit From Black Diamond
View the Animation

Moosejaw 1103_gif_mj_gif

I LOVED this animated hand from Moosejaw. It not only moved in an up and down motion (pointing at the call to action), but it also changed into a variety of funny hands. There’s no way anyone would miss the button in this email.

From: LOFT
Date: 10/24/15
Subject Line: Everything’s on sale (so don’t hold back)
View the Animation

LOFT 1103_gif_loft_gif

LOFT’s flashing call to action is also sure to grab your attention. I’m a little on the fence about this one though. Although it stands out, the flashing can get a tad annoying.

DO: USE GIFS TO DRAW EYES DOWN THE PAGE

From: aerie
Date: 10/30/15
Subject Line: 31% Off! All Treats For Our Girls. No Tricks!
View the Animation

Aerie 1103_gif_spider_gif

I really liked Aerie’s dropping spider animation. The spider itself looked nicer than your standard clip art and the drop shadow was a nice touch. By having the spider drop down the page, your eye is drawn down so you don’t miss anything in the email.

From: Charming Charlie
Date: 10/27/15
Subject Line: Five new faves! Starting at $19.
View the Animation

Charming Charlie 1103_gif_acorn_gif

Charming Charlie used a clever method to draw your eye downward. They used an acorn that rolled along the diagonal lines down the page, passing the products along the way.

DO: USE FLUID MOTION WHEN POSSIBLE

From: Aéropostale
Date: 10/12/15
Subject Line: ENDS TODAY! Extra 30% off during our bdayyy
View the Animation

Aero 1103_gif_aero_gif

Taking the time to add the extra frames can really make a difference. I like how smooth the GIF is of the candle blowing out — almost like a video.

DO: USE THEM TO ADD A LITTLE INTEREST

From: MoYou-London
Date: 11/04/15
Subject Line: ❅ New Festive Plates! ❅ This Friday!

MoYou MoYou

Like in this example from MoYou London. The subtle snow falling and blowing hat adds value without being too flashy.

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 11/04/15
Subject Line: Get 30% Back on Almost Everything
View the Animation

Moosejaw Moosejaw

Or in this email from MooseJaw. Check out the banner near the bottom. A window washing dinosaur? Why not! It doesn’t take much to go from meh to magnificent.

DON’T: CUT A SINGLE GIF INTO TWO PIECES

From: Gap
Date: 10/30/15
Subject Line: news you’ll love: gap factory is now online
View the Animation

Gap Gap

Here’s an oopsie from Gap. The animated GIF was cut into two pieces, resulting in out of sync images. In this situation, it was the top of the peoples’ heads that were cut separately so it resulted in humorous hairstyles atop the wrong heads.

DON’T: GET SLOPPY WITH YOUR ANIMATION

From: Charming Charlie
Date: 10/18/15
Subject Line: How you love to shop–by color!
View the Animation

Charming Charlie

This email from Charming Charlie animates between color swatches and products. Instead of using one large GIF, each color is cut and animated separately. This results in an unpredictable and somewhat chaotic flashing of images. Sometimes multiple products will show up at once and other times there will be seconds with no animation. When creating an animation, be very purposeful about where and when you want someone to look at something – draw their eye around the page and keep them engaged.

DON’T: ANIMATE TEXT TOO QUICKLY

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 10/02/15
Subject Line: This. Is. BIG. 20% off Full-price and Sale Stuff.
View the Animation

Moosejaw 1103_gif_moose2_gif

I really liked the idea behind this email. The concept is clever and the animation is cute. However, the animation moves a little too fast to read. They do finish the animation with the text showing for a handful of seconds so they redeem themselves in the end. This is a good example for being aware of the speed of your animation, particularly when text is involved.

DON’T: MAKE YOUR FILE SIZE TOO LARGE

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 10/14/15
Subject Line: Last day for up to $50 off your purchase!
View the Animation

American Eagle

American Eagle backed their headline with a time lapse sunset. Great in concept, but HUGE in file size. Due to the size of the hero and length of the animation, this image is a whopping 14 megabytes! This will dramatically slow loading times, particularly for those viewing on mobile devises.

DON’T: ANIMATE MORE THAN YOU NEED TO

From: Charming Charlie
Date: 10/14/15
Subject Line: Ends tonight! Last chance BOGO jewelry.

Charming Charlie Charming Charlie

This example from Charming Charlie is a good reminder to cut your GIFs in the most efficient way possible. Only the call to action blinks in this email, but the entire email was cut as a GIF. This resulted in a very low quality, grainy image. Keep in mind that GIFs don’t have the same color range as JPGs. Think ahead and cut your design appropriately. (NOTE: The web version of the GIF was actually higher quality than the one in the email. To see how it looked in the email, see the larger image above or click here.)

Lastly…
DON’T: FORGET OUTLOOK!

Remember to include all of your pertinent information (or the best looking portion of your animation) in the first frame. Why? Because Outlook doesn’t support animated gifs — they will only show the first frame.

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Video gif hero

Get Your Video Moving

Do you have a video to share? As email retailers are painfully aware, videos can’t be embedded into emails. But don’t let that stop you from getting the next best thing. Converting part of your video into an animated gif has multiple clear advantages. Right off the bat, the motion is sure to grab your subscribers’ attention. Furthermore, showing part of the video will give them a better idea about what to expect by clicking. Not to mention that the teaser is a great way to leave them wanting more.

When going this route there are a few things to keep in mind.
1) Animated gifs don’t support audio, so choose a part of the video that works best without sound.
2) Select the section of the video that is most interesting. You can only show a few seconds, so make them count.
3) If your gif is playing on a loop, make sure there isn’t an awkward transition from the end of the video to when it replays.
4) Don’t forget your call to action. Make sure people know the video is clickable by adding a play button to the video itself or a button nearby.
5) File size. Try to keep your video around or under 1-megabyte if possible for quicker loading time.

From: LOFT
Date: 9/28/15
Subject Line: LOFT loves Busy Philipps
See it in motion

LOFT

Here is one example from LOFT. They chose a section of the video that contained the most humor and least amount of talking. They also added the play button to the center of the video throughout the gif. Both good calls. My only suggestion — I personally wish this video played on a loop. While reading or scrolling through the email, it’s easy to miss the beginning of the gif. Having it replay will ensure it gets viewed in it’s entirety.

From: Sephora Beauty Insider
Date: 9/23/15
Subject Line: The #1 beauty secret?
See it in motion

Sephora

Sephora also chose a section of video that was most interesting. They doubled up on their call-to-actions by having a “Watch the Video” link as well as a play button in the corner of the video. The more the better, I say. I also wish the videos looped in this email.

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No Pants Hero

Will Drop Pants for Clicks

Just in case you didn’t get the memo: Pants are out. I found it inconceivable and hilarious that I recieved these two strikingly similar emails in the same month. Both feature an animated GIF of a man dropping his pants to reveal his underwear. It’s sure to grab anyone’s attention and maybe even cause a little chuckle – I’ll give them that!

I’ll break down the pros and cons for each email, but I have one suggestion that applies to both. In each, the animated GIF is used to show a multitude of products. For AEO, 5 boxers are shown; in Moosejaw, 3 pants cycle through. I would suggest adding images of these products below the GIF. This will allow the subscriber to 1) get a better view of the product, 2) let them see it for a longer amount of time, and 3) will also provide a link to each product.

From: American Eagle Outfitters
Date: 10/05/15
Subject Line: Pants off, sale on.
See the animated email

American Eagle Outfitters  AEO GIF

PROS

  • Large clear image and headline. It’s eye grabbing and straight forward.
  • The way the links are integrated over the hero image is a nice touch. It’s a nice way of bringing everything together into one solid message.
  • Cute preheader. “More AEO underwear = less laundry…#winning”

CONS

  • 4 Meg GIF = Slow loading time

From: Moosejaw.com
Date: 10/15/15
Subject Line: Keep Your Pants On | Free $10 for Taking a Survey
See the animated email

Moosejaw  Moosejaw GIF

PROS

  • 700K GIF = Quick loading time
  • For those that read the copy, it’s hilariously well written. Here’s a snippet: “Let’s face it, nobody likes wearing pants. As a matter of fact, I’m not wearing any right now. Ever wonder why some people are jerks in the morning? It’s because they had to put on pants.”

CONS

  • Not very scannable copy. I love the humor, but titles or bolded text could help get the point across quicker for those that don’t have time to read.
  • No flow. Everything is full width and stacked. Not ideal.
  • Lack of hierarchy. The first two messages are related, but the third isn’t. It feels out of place. I suggest treating it more like a secondary message by making it smaller, or removing it entirely.

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Urban Outfitters Pumpkin Hero

Back to Basics

From: UrbanOutfitters.com
Date: 9/18/15
Subject Line: Click on the 🎃 to Shop Halloween →

Urban Oufitters

My first thought when I opened this email was, “What the— What’s going on?” The entire email is filled with pumpkins overlapping one another continuously in an animated gif. It didn’t take me long to find the instructions in the subject line: Click on the 🎃 to Shop Halloween →. Of course the pumpkins all say “Shop Halloween” as well, but they aren’t immediately apparent as clickable.

I liked the use of the pumpkin emoji in the subject line. The email is a unique idea and it definitely got my attention. However, I’m curious how successful the email campaign was. I have three immediate concerns: 1) lack of product imagery, 2) will the instructions in the subject line be overlooked? and 3) is this email too gimmicky? It brings me back to the days of flashing banners to get attention. Are we past that now or does this strategy still work? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Would you click on this email? Let us know what you think on our Code à la Mode Facebook page.

One other observation worth mentioning is that the pumpkins appear quite differently in various email platforms. Here are some screenshots to illustrate. If you’re planning on using a special character in your email or subject line, it might be worth checking out all the versions people will be seeing (email platforms and smart phones alike). You won’t be able to change how it looks, but it may influence your decision about using it all together. See more on special character rendering in subject lines from a previous post by Lyla here.

Gmail:
Gmail Pumpkin
Yahoo:
Yahoo Pumpkin
Hotmail:
Hotmail Pumpkin

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Retention Email Hero

An Eye Catching Retention Email

This retention email from Bath & Body Works was fun! The animated gif grabbed my attention right away. The theme was cute with the product playing hide-and-seek (peek-a-boo) and asking “Where’d you go?” The call to action in the heart with the wording “Let’s Play!” was a nice touch. My only suggestion — I could always use a little more incentive (eh-hem, a discount, or at least some enticing new products to check out) to get me to click through. Overall, nicely done!

From: Bath & Body Works
Date: 8/31/15
Subject Line: Something’s missing.
See the animation.

Bath and Body Works

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Perfect Timing

From: Warby Parker
Date: 03/08/2014
Subject Line: Finally

03.06.2014 WarbyParker

 

One of the necessary requirements for an email marketing professional is to possess an almost religious dedication/obsession to sorting through the daily inbox. When part of the job is subscribing to every email retailer under the sun, “email fatigue” can start to set in, and it can take a lot more to us get “wowed” by any particular campaign…

We LOVE this effort from Warby Parker, which is notable for a few reasons:
1) The subject line is to the point (one word!) and compelling.
2) The awesome creative. With only 2 frames in the animation that rotate between images of a clock going from 2am to 3am, the file size is nice and light for speedier loading time. You can see the animation in effect here.
3) The timing is absolutely perfect… arriving 8:13am on a Saturday, this email was at the top of my inbox, and most likely of Warby Parker wearing hipsters everywhere.

Added bonus: make sure to check out this delightful infographic posted to the WP blog. How much fun must it be to work for their creative team???

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