Four Myths About Video Email

Video Email Trends

Google Trends chart for the term “Video Email”

We’re coming down hard on the whole video email thing, and we’re choosing to talk about it now because it’s a topic that is hotter than its ever been. (See the Google Trends analysis of the term to the left.)

There are a lot of misconceptions about what is and is not possible and practical regarding the use of video in email marketing campaigns. As ever, the future of video email marketing is unclear. But one thing is certain: in order to be successful with video marketing you need to understand the capabilities and limitations of technology as they exist right now. What follows is a list of myths about what can and should be done with video in email marketing campaigns:

Myth 1: I should figure out how to get a video to play in the inboxes of my recipients.

No, you shouldn’t. Here’s one very good reason why: in most cases, no matter what you do, it won’t work.

Here’s another: We at the Council have seen a variety of video emails in our inboxes (thanks to a very liberal webmail client) and not one has been remarkable — not a single one. The simple fact of the matter is that full video — and by that we mean good frame- and bitrates, decent audio, good production values, an attractive player, etc. — deserves its own space. Cramming a video into an inbox detracts from the value of the video. Video deserves its own space. That’s how viewers are used to consuming video content.

Oh, and if you’re even thinking about having your video auto-play in the body of an email, forget it. Auto-play video works on the Web, but it is intrusive in email. The last thing I want first thing on a Monday morning is to inadvertently start a loud video before I’ve had a chance to adjust my volume controls. That’s the kind of thing that gets laptops thrown across offices.

Myth 2: I should look into animated .gif files.

This solves the audio problem, for sure. But again, we’re talking about a quality issue here. Even the best animated .gif files that we’ve seen have been grainy, choppy, or both. Further — and this might sound hypocritical — in the modern era, video without audio is unheard of. Viewers expect audio with video content, and are generally confused if they don’t get it. I’m not saying you should go full video — that would be hypocritical. I’m saying that if you’re looking for a seamless video implementation, animated .gifs aren’t a much better solution.

Myth 3: HTML5 solves all of my video email problems.

Does it? I’m not sure. There are definitely browser compatibility issues with HTML5/H.264, and as of right now the Council is unclear as to what this means for video email. The simple fact of the matter is, though, that HTML5 doesn’t solve any video email problems right now, and we’ll have to wait and see what it does for video email in the future. One thing is clear, however: regardless of the coding, there will always be deliverability issues associated with video in certain mail clients. Add to that the detriments listed in Myth 1, and you begin to get a broader picture.

Myth 4: Video email is a very bad idea.

I don’t want you to get the wrong idea here. There are plenty of ways you shouldn’t use video for email marketing. But the same is true for email and social media, email and telemarketing, email and direct mail, and so on. That doesn’t mean the two don’t go hand-in-hand. It means that you have to think things through a bit more.

Look, video is a powerful medium. It deserves to be considered on its own, independent of other competing media. Email is, as it always has been, about text and graphic content. That’s email’s bread-and-butter, and it’s what people expect when they open an email. In order for the two media to play well together, one has to pass traffic to the other. Specifically, the text-and-graphic content that works in email must pass traffic to a video in its own appropriately-designed (and marketer-controlled) environment.

That’s the state of video email at this very moment in time. We can talk about the future of video email all we’d like, but that doesn’t help us design email campaigns today. What are your thoughts on what is and is not possible with video email? What would you like to see as a marketer and as a consumer?

(Oh, and beware ye who would comment on this blog post and say that your company solves one of these problems. Our SPAMhounds are particularly ravenous today.)

Wayne Wall is Executive Director of the Web Video Marketing Council.  He can be reached at

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