Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rich Media E-mails

Rich media e-mails go one step beyond the use of static or animated graphics in HTML e-mails, and give a richer experience through more complex animation, video and/or sound. Some refer to HTML as rich media, but more commonly the term is used to refer to e-mails with more dynamic or interactive content. A video can be streamed when the user opens the e-mail, or the message displayed in the preview pane and the video downloaded and displayed in real time — for example, Trailermail ( is used to provide video trailers for movie companies. Alternatively, Flash animations can be integrated into the e-mail.

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Many brands have experimented with rich media e-mail, but they don't seem to be increasing in popularity. There are several potential reasons why they have not been used more widely:

  • E-mail, as with other digital media, tends to support impulsive behaviour — we don't want to wait for downloads unless the download is compelling
  • Many corporate firewalls can block streaming media and, because of the high at work usage of e-mail, companies cannot risk reducing the visibility of their message
  • Again in the corporate setting, e-mail recipients often won't want to be seen listening to or viewing a video clip by their boss, unless they control the media and turn on audio
  • There is not a clear relationship between the incremental cost of rich media and the
    returns generated either through response or uplifts in brand awareness and favourability.

Owing to the technical issues of delivering rich media within the e-mail, increasingly companies are using an approach where the message directs the viewer to a web site to download or stream a clip. Of course, this means that the e-mail has less impact itself. If rich media is used in e-mail, it is more likely to be relatively simple — perhaps a flash animation — and is used to complement a text or static image-based message which will be effective even if the rich media element doesn't download.

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