Using advertisements in emails, like MRECs and leaderboards, can generate a lot of income and in many businesses this may be part of an ad sales’ KPI. This opens the doors for your emails being turned into a money making tool rather than a communication and engagement tool.

Looking broadly at advertisements, there are three schools of thought:

  1. Using advertisements to generate income
  2. Using advertisements to compliment content
  3. Not using advertisements

Using advertisements in emails to generate income

When you see an advertisement in an email it is there for one of three reasons. It’s generating income. It’s part of a contra or partner deal, or it’s being used for internal promotion like a company’s own product or competition. All of which are beneficial for the business, but not so good on the user experience… because people hate advertisements.

The positives

  • Using ads in an email just to generate income has only one positive — revenue.

The negatives

Your email goes from having purpose and a call to action to an overload of competing information.

  • Risking unrelated content

Filling ad spots can be a tough process. As a deadline to an email gets closer it is probably more likely the ad spot will get filled with anything that can make the business money. This risks filling the email with a. advertisements and b. content that your audience doesn’t care about.

  • Hurting client relationships

Ads don’t do well. Especially in email. Constantly under performing ads can hurt relationships with clients if their expectations are high.

  • Ruin the aesthetics, layout or design of an email

Running multiple ads means running multiple formats and colour schemes. Ads in emails can be static, or animated GIFs and generally branded to the company that they are advertising. This means loud colours, generally image heavy and strong call to actions. Having big blocks of this spread over an email can really impact its layout and effectiveness.

An enewsletter by Mumbrella which shows several ad placements.

Using advertisements in emails to compliment content

This is the next best thing. In many businesses, advertisements are just a prerequisite. However, if they are going to be used it’s best to put some strict specifications on them to create the best user experience you can.

The positives

While the revenue generated may be less, it’s still generated, and having good ad placement means sales can charge a premium for these ads as they are in shorter supply.

Businesses set KPI’s for sales and this gives the chance to ad this KPI without overloading the email.

  • The content is relevant to your audience

Placing ad content that is relevant to your audience will give them a better experience.

  • Ads will perform as best they can

Ads that are relevant will also perform better compared to ads that have no restrictions.

The negatives

  • It’s harder to get ads that are to spec

Having good ad placement means having quite restrictive specifications around format, file size and potentially colours or image usage. Because this sits outside the usual ad placements like MRECs, leaderboards, skyscrapers, etc. then it can be more difficult to get the ad in the right specification from the client, especially if the ad spot is booked close to the deadline.

Maintaining more complex specifications is harder as every client you work with will have different resources available. Some might not be able to make a custom ad which leaves the business relying on you to create or edit their artwork for them. This can end up costing you time and revenue.

  • Can affect the layout, aesthetics or design of an email

This is less of an issue than if the ads had limited specs, but can still be an issue if the ads are very sales-like with loud colours and loud call to actions, using words like “FREE, BUY NOW or LIMITED TIME ONLY”.

Not using advertisements in emails

In email, not using advertisements is a good way to go. Email is generally the only communication tool that you have to reach your subscribers. There are so many mediums where ads are placed, and users are overloaded with advertisements everywhere that it isn’t worth giving them the negative experience.

The positives

The design and layout of the email is not effected.

There is nothing competing against your own content.

Emails that have no ads generally perform better. Which means higher engagement and less unsubscribes.

The negatives

A lot of the time email advertisements will be sold based on the number of subscribers it is sent to. Taking out ads means there won’t be additional revenue generated just for sending the email.

  • Business may create demand for ads

Depending on the size of your business, there may be a certain demand for advertisements to increase revenue.

An enewsletter by Litmus that shows no ad placements.

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