With Christmas just around the corner, it’s likely you’ll be thinking of how you’re going to send Christmas messages to your customers, and animated GIFs are fast becoming a popular choice.

But before you go off and look for the prettiest / funniest / most clever GIF to use, this post will ensure you’re not jeopardising your campaign in the process.

What is a GIF?

GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format and put simply, is an image format that can be animated. GIFs work by rapidly displaying a series of images which gives the illusion of motion – the same principle as flipbooks.

Why do GIFs make good content?

Using GIFs in marketing campaigns can add an element of humour, delight or surprise for the reader and can even be an effective way of providing information. MailChimp did just this, they used animated GIFs in a string of emails to explain their drastically redesigned interface, something that would have been difficult to demonstrate with text or static images.

Sounds great, what’s the catch?

Although GIFs may look great to you as the creator, there are a few things to consider first. Not every email client supports GIFs and those that don’t (Outlook 2007, 2010, 2013) won’t show the animation at all. Instead when your recipient opens the email they will see just the first frame of the animation, which more often than not holds little or none of the information.

Secondly, GIFs are often very large file sizes and with the number of people opening emails on mobiles overtaking that of desktops, the size of the file is an important factor. Large files can be slow to load and play, and may also cut into subscribers’ mobile data plans – factors that will stop people opening your emails and may result in them unsubscribing.

So does this mean GIFS are a big no no?

Not necessarily, it is important to make sure that any vital information or call to actions within the GIF are in the first frame – so even those using email clients that can’t show the animation, are still receiving the same important information.

There are also a number of ways to reduce the size of your GIFs including reducing the number of colours saved in the file, cropping as much as possible, only animating part of the picture and removing frames.


It is always good practice to test your emails on different devices and platforms no matter what the content and it is even more important for GIFs. Remember, readers will on average close an email that doesn’t load in under 2 seconds.

For more information on do’s and don’ts of email campaigns or if you’re looking to outsource your marketing activity please get in touch today