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The Good and Bad News About Video In Email Campaigns

If you’re glowing over a recently finished motion piece but realize you aren’t sure how to promote it by email, here’s the bad news:

It’s Not Possible to Email a Video in the Way You’re Hoping

In my experience, artists want to embed the video player in the email itself, as we do with images. So when a creative opens, they can click play and watch the video right from inside your email design.

You can embed videos on your blog, portfolio, or website – so why shouldn’t you be able to embed a video in your email campaign? Unfortunately, the programs – Apple Mail, Thunderbird, etc. – and websites – Gmail, Yahoo!, etc. – we use to view email aren’t nearly as standardized or advanced as the browsers we use to view videos. That presents a serious obstacle to making the video play.

To put it simply: email applications are still too primitive to play video. If you embed a video player in your campaign, contacts will likely see:

  • A white box with an error message
  • A still image
  • A blank gap in your campaign
  • Nothing at all – because their email client may have junked it entirely!

Until our email applications become as advanced as our ambitions, embedding a video player in your email campaign isn’t a viable option. Even animated GIFs, those rudimentary moving images, don’t display reliably. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some nifty, skillful ways to promote your video work via email.

Alternative Ways to Promote Video in an Email Campaign

1. Take a screenshot of the video player paused on a particularly compelling still from your video – you can even overlay a higher-quality still in an image-editing program like Photoshop. Link the image to your video, so that contacts who click are taken to your website (or Vimeo/Youtube) with the real video player.

The Marketing Lab Video in Email Marketing Campaigns for Photographers and Illustrators 01 resized 600

Photo credit: Sri Devi Nrithyalaya

2. Just add a play button. Instead of including an image of the entire video player, use your usual image size and design and merely overlay a play button on the image. It won’t look like a real video player, but contacts will still understand they must click to watch.

The Marketing Lab Video in Email Marketing Campaigns for Photographers and Illustrators 02 resized 600

3. Artfully arrange some captivating stills. Just as you might showcase several related images on a single page on your portfolio, arrange some stills from your video into a single image and include a play button or “watch video” call-to-action in your design.

The Marketing Lab Video in Email Marketing Campaigns for Photographers and Illustrators 03 resized 600

4. Design a “movie poster” for your video. This should consist of a striking still, a title, and a short tagline about the nature of your video.

The Marketing Lab Video in Email Marketing Campaigns for Photographers and Illustrators 04 resized 600

Don’t forget to host your video on an attractive landing page. If possible, avoid linking directly to Vimeo or showing your video on a blank white browser window. Embedding it in your portfolio or on your blog will allow viewers to soak in your branding and easily access more of your work.

So although you can’t embed a video directly in an email campaign, promoting your video by email is a worthy pursuit. Just remember to show off your best stills, indicate that it’s a video – either in text or with a play button – and include a call-to-action that describes the video and asks recipients to watch it.

To learn more about email standards, visit the Email Standards Project.

Melissa Pang

Melissa Pang was Agency Access' copywriter, with several years under her belt working with artists at FoundFolios and The ADBASE Group. Melissa loves a good adverb, keeps one eye (or two) on the advertising industry and has a soft spot for illustration.

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