Commentary

Video In Email: The Race is On!

Are the lines blurring, or am I just going cross-eyed? Google announced a number of Labs features that have been graduated out of the nursery test bed of gadgets and technologies into full-blown live features available to users of the mail interface. Chief among these new odds and ends is the ability to embed YouTube videos that will play directly within the Gmail Web mail client.

If you're a marketer, you're probably jumping out of your seat right now. But hold on, it's not quite as straightforward as it sounds. What Google is offering is a kind of tease -- an appetizer that doesn't quite satisfy but does bring us closer to the interactivity of video in email.

The new feature is brilliantly simple to use; there's no complicated scripting required. As a matter of fact, YouTube's own embed code won't serve up the still image preview overlayed with the play button. In order to add the video into the email and have the preview available, one only needs to put in a simple URL to the video's location on Youtube.

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I know, it's genius, right? Sort of, but I have to ask a simple question: Why not go with what has become the standard way of embedding videos into Web pages, using the auto-generated embed code? I wish I knew the answer. One could speculate that something about the code might cause delivery issues, or that as usual Google wants to somehow reinvent the wheel to be a more perfect and harmonious circle. Whatever the case may be, it's definitely a start, allowing marketers to promote their YouTube content and deliver a more dynamic experience to their customer's inboxes.

Now, it's not all roses. Mark Brownlow of Email Marketing Reports recently detailed the nuances of Gmail's new video in email feature, and there are definite limitations. I'm sure over time this may change and some of the quirkiness will be fixed (let's hope), but ponder for a moment what this means: Apple's iPad has announced video in email support, and Google just launched YouTube in the Gmail client. Are we in the pre-dawn days of the video email wars? Google seems willing and quite able to pick a fight with any technology on the Internet (if they haven't invented it already, they buy it or just reinvent it). The recent addition of Buzz or Wave "lite" effectively takes on Twitter. Orkut was an attempt to take on the social networks, but ran short of spectacular in the U.S., while making quite the splash in Brazil. The full release of the video feature in Gmail seems like a volley over the Silicon Valley fence at Apple and the iPad -- except that you have to remember that there's a kind of non-aggression treaty in place between the two titans.

Whatever the strategy, moving forward, video is making solid inroads into the previous text and picture world of email. Marketers should start thinking about how to convey their messages, present their brands, and deliver content to an increasingly attention-span-deprived audience that will rely on show-not-tell technologies at their doorstep to inform them of what they should be doing, buying and consuming.

Go ahead: set up a Youtube channel, test it in your emails, and determine how many Gmail recipients you have, identify their email client if you're using a platform identification-capable technology like MailboxIQ, segment, and send away. If nothing else, going through the segmenting exercise brings you closer to your data and your own customer base, which is never a waste of time.

6 comments about "Video In Email: The Race is On!".
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  1. Jonathan Mirow from BroadbandVideo, Inc., March 1, 2010 at 1:49 p.m.

    Letsee - In my email today I've recieved an ad for an indoor dog potty, my name in some bastardized version of "who's who", a pitch for VA loans and something that will teach me all about bathroom remodeling. That's the stuff that made it PAST my spam filter and the servers internal spam filtering. Now, fast forward to what this article proposes and I'll be greeted with video of a dog crapping on a carpet, a guy with a British accent telling me how well-known I am (and how I can be better known for a mere $99.95), General Patton telling me to stand at attention and fill out the attached form and a sweeping panarama of a remodeled bathroom. That's not email - that's hell, people. Look, I'm IN the video business and don't want this to come to pass - imagine how thrilled consumers will be.

  2. LK Rushton, March 1, 2010 at 6:59 p.m.

    The point is to use a product that has the double-opt in feature; we only want to send video emails to our database; we are 100% can-SPAM compliant.
    Do your research.

  3. Thomas Buffolano from Think Manhattan, March 1, 2010 at 7:21 p.m.

    I was doing video links in email as part of acquisition and retention campaigns for College Sports that were double opt-in and very targeted to the audience. They were not ads, it was exclusive video content that had some relevant message wrapped around it and sponsored by and advertiser who was also making a special or exclusive offer.
    and it worked.
    So if you want to throw video ads in consumer emails - go ahead and see how quick the opt-out rates go up.

  4. Scott Broomfield from Veeple, Inc., March 2, 2010 at 10:26 a.m.

    Screw the ads. Ads in video is soooo 2000 and Late.

    Think about using video in an interactive fashion, thereby creating an engaging experience for i-Marketing, i-Commerce and i-Learning. Relevant and non-intrusive storytelling.

    Video in email is simply one approach in a comprehensive social media and marketing campaign.

  5. Kirk Bentely from POP, March 2, 2010 at 11:05 a.m.

    Isn't the whole point of an email to drive your subscribers to your website? Seems like just linking to the video is a much better way to get people headed down the purchase path.

  6. Jennifer Omeara from FLIMP Media, March 2, 2010 at 11:26 a.m.

    Len -

    You raised some really solid points. First and foremost - email web video marketing campaigns do work. Click thru rates for emails with video content are 2 to 3 times higher and generate 4 to 7 times audience engagement. Right now, the best way to work with video for email marketing programs is to follow an industry best practice of including a thumbnail of the video's content and a link to the video.

    From a technological standpoint, it has been possible to play video within email message for quite some time. Just because video can play in an email message, doesn't mean it should play. As Jonathan pointed out, video spam would not be something most people want to receive. Also, especially in a B2B capacity, many corporations would not want to have their email bandwidth weighed down by employees viewing video directly in email, nor would people working in an open environment want to hear the video content.

    Google's announcement is interesting and it could be worth testing in A/B campaigns sent directly to Gmail subscribers. However, YouTube is not necessarily the best platform to host content for email web video marketing campaigns. While it can be beneficial from an SEO standpoint to post corporate video content to YouTube, this site may not be the best place to launch a web video marketing campaign.

    Marketers can definitely be blinded by the "free" aspect of using YouTube. If you are hosting your video on a video sharing site, you have to abide by the site's licensing terms and agreements. Additionally, the hosting site can benefit by hosting your video as your views can increase the site's traffic. Video content that is either not contextually relevant or perhaps offensive to your organization could be displayed with your video. Reporting metrics may be limited. Also, you may have to contend with the site's branding, like the YouTube logo visible on the video player. Finally, after a viewer has watched your video, it can be difficult to enable them to engage with your product, service or organization.

    Since web video marketing is a powerful way to directly communicate with an audience, email web video marketing campaigns will continue to grow and evolve.

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