The V all and end all – Using background videos in email

3 minute read

Over the past few year, the face of email has changed significantly. There have been several improvements and just as many gimmicks integrated into our beloved inbox companions.

One of these recent advances, thanks to the inclusion of HTML5, has been the ability to add video backgrounds into emails. But is this a genuinely viable practice that we should all be looking at? Several clients have recently asked me whether or not it’s worth adding this feature to increase the “wow factor” of their campaigns, so I decided to investigate.


My first thought was that adding a video file to an email campaign will greatly increase the overall download size, potentially making things difficult for recipients trying to download the email over 4G networks. Undeterred, I added a fairly simple animation, coded it as a background video, crossed my fingers and sent a preview to the key email clients.

Immediately I saw that the video worked great across Apple Mail IOS and Outlook 2011 for Mac which both support this new feature. But what about the other big hitters, Outlook, Gmail, and Android, can they handle this innovative leap too?

The short answer is… No, they can’t.

Sadly, none of the other email clients I tested supported this feature, and as I expected the file size of my campaign rocketed, the remaining email clients who don’t support video would need a fall back image to maintain the aesthetic and big email clients such as Outlook and Yahoo don’t support this either.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, there’s a few alternatives we can use.

A short animated Gif sequence, although still not accepted by all email clients, will be significantly smaller in size then a video but will serve the same purpose. If you want a way of leading your recipients to video content, then why not add an image thumbnail or screenshot of the desired video with a you tube looking “play” interface and have that link through to wherever your content is hosted.

It’s a great shame that video tags aren’t there quite yet across the board, but with email and mobile connectivity constantly evolving, never say never.