Video in campaign emails is risky

Clive Palmer's email demonstrates the complexity of linking to a video within an email and why you should host the video on your website.

Email Sent On
April 11, 2022
United Australia Party
Subject Line
WATCH: Clive's interview with Today Show presenter Karl Stefanovic
Readability Score

Video should be secondary to text

News consumers in Australia mostly pay attention to mainstream news outlets and journalists. This is why the UAP team decided to share Clive Palmer's interview with Karl Stefanovic on 9 News. It conveys legitimacy, and Stefanovic's softball approach allows Clive to get his talking points across.

However, sharing a video in an email presents challenges from a User Experience perspective.

  1. Email is a text medium. Most users' expectation of email is that they will need to read the content. To watch a video will require them to leave an email message. The link to the video may not work for many different technical reasons, e.g. if the reader is in an area with only 3G coverage. 
  2. Most email users are rushed and only scan emails. If we know most users will only scan emails, there is a low likelihood they will watch a 5-minute video. 
  3. To link a video in an email, you need to convey that the link is a video and clearly illustrate its content. The solution often used is to take a screenshot of the video and place a play symbol over the image. However, this presents the problem of non-existent functionality. The result is that some users will select the link with the play button expecting the video to play within their email program or platform. When it doesn't, and they are taken to an external site, they may cancel that action as it was not what they expected and are hesitant of links to third party sites. To limit this, it's important to clearly describe what the video is and what happens when the user selects the link.
  4. If your video is hosted on a third party news site you have no control over how the video is shown, for example when I clicked on the link to Channel 9's video, the preroll ad was for Independent candidate Zali Steggall.

The good:

Subject Line: Clearly indicates the content of the email.

Succinct: This email is short and to the point.

Links: Because the email is so short, it is clear that the links take the user to a video.

Needs improvement:

Subject Line: Uses 66 Characters and 9 words. While this subject line is descriptive, it is too long. Limit subject lines to 40 characters.

Preheader text: This email starts with the utility text and link: Can't read or see images? View this email in a browser. 

Clive Palmer preheader with utility text highlighted

While providing users with the option to view the email in a browser is helpful, the text and link push the content further down the page and appear as preheader text.

Use the preheader text to give your readers additional context and details about your message. Combined with the Subject line, this can be a powerful tool.

Screen shot of a iPhone with the Apple mail app open to the inbox showing an improved predheader text and shorter subject
Clive Palmer's preader text improved to provide additional context

Video in email: The link to the video in this email goes directly to Channel 9's website, which immediately plays a 15-second video preroll advertisement. Prevideo advertisements are hated by users on both mobile and desktop. The most likely outcome will be that users close the video and move on.

A better solution would be to capture the content from Channel 9 and host it on your own website with a full transcript.

Provide supplementary written content: If a user doesn't click the video, they will not know the UAP's position on: 

  • 'the trillion-dollar debt'
  • 'freezing home loan rates'
  • 'how the UAP will deal with preferences'

Email users are generally in a rush and time-poor. It is unreasonable to assume they will watch a 5-minute video. Give a brief outline of the UAP's position on these issues for most readers who will not watch the video.

Profile Picture of Alex Marsh

Alex Marsh

When Alex isn't watching netball he's reading campaign emails.  Political Inbox is a catalogue of emails compiled from the 2022 Australian federal election.