Flash or GIF’s in animated email?

I get a lot of inquires from people who have seen the animated emails on the Style Campaign website…some of them are interested in using Flash in their newsletters.

Unfortunately Flash isn’t supported in the email environment, Campaign Monitor  ran a series of tests across a range of email clients to see which supported Flash.

Out of the 13 major email clients tested, (Outlook 2003, AOL 9, GMAIL and Yahoo ect) only one supported Flash and that was Mac Mail.

The alternative we are left with, is the animated GIF.  Unlike Flash,  every single email client supports animated GIF’s except for Outlook 2007.  Outlook 2007 shows the first frame of the GIF as a still image.  So make sure your first frame works on it’s own and avoid fade in’s.

If you need more convincing, 94% of the retailers tracked by Email Experience Council, that have used animation in their emails over the past seven months used animated GIF’s rather than Flash- Email Experience Council, “Animation in Retail Emails Study” (June 2007)

This is going to put me on par with a stamp collector, but for the past 2yrs I have been saving any interesting animated emails into a folder. I have around 80 or so, only one uses Flash which you can view here (received March 2007!) the rest use animated GIF’s. I admit the Flash example from Neiman Marcus is quite cool,  and works in my Outlook 2000 inbox.  But Since March 2007 when I received the lonesome Flash email even Neiman Marcus has seen the light and switched to GIF’s.

To tell the difference right click on the animated section of the email, if it’s Flash you will see, “About Flash Media Player”. If it’s a GIF it will allow you to, “Save Picture As” and you will see the GIF file extension. Try saving it out and opening it in ImageReady to see each frame.

Here are some of the Retailer’s who use animated GIF”s in their email campaigns, and who I have examples from:

Marks & Spencer, Ralph Lauren, Bluefly, REI Gearmail, Lands End, West Elm, Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus, Overstock, Horchow, Saks, CB2, Norm Thompson, Williams-Sonoma, Juicy Couture, Art.com, Dior, Macys, Gap, Cole Hann, Tiffany & Co, Fred Segal, Shopbop, Pottery Barn…

You can view my top 10 animated emails here.


2 Responses to “Flash or GIF’s in animated email?”

  • Travis Bell
    May 7th, 2008 17:59

    Interestingly enough, I believe Apple has disabled animated GIF’s in Mail starting in Leopard.


    Has a bunch of users who have all noticed the issue. Funny how Flash is OK, but now animated GIF’s are not.

  • Anna Yeaman
    May 7th, 2008 19:04

    Hi Travis,

    thanks for letting us know and sharing the link. Lots of unhappy Mac users on the forum!

    If you are using Leopard and want support for animated GIF’s back, try leaving Apple feedback here. Select Mac OS X and then a Feedback Area of “Mail”.

    What I found interesting about the comments on the Apple forum is the number of people using animated GIF’s in their email signatures. I have been getting requests recently from clients for animated sigs…seems to be on the rise.

    If you have a cool animated sig send it to me, I will post a selection on the blog. In the meantime check out this article, “What Does Your E-Mail Signature Say About You?”.


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