Does anybody know if you can use animated gifs in emails and if so how do you do it? I know that you cannot send flash, or it's not recommended.
Some email clients show them, some do not - such as Outlook '07 (only shows the first frame of the animation).
Best practice: don't use them.
I wouldn't say don't use them, just don't use them without a good reason. If you've got Photoshop you can use ImageReady to create basic animations.
Like Brian mentioned animated gifs play in most email clients. The big holdout being Outlook 2007 which displays the first frame only. So just make sure your first frame makes sense as a stand alone, no fade in ect...
Many top UK and US retailers have been using animated gifs in email for years. Bluefly reported a 12% lift in sales in a/b tests when using animation vs. static image.
As the holidays are coming up here's a few Xmas emails with animated gifs...
A few companies such as Sears and Kraft Foods have been converting video to animated gifs for email also. I think animated gifs have their uses...though I get the love/hate feeling people have towards them :)
I agree that it can be used if you pay attention to what's in the first frame, but be aware that the animation is usually a larger image that may take longer to load. Depending on how complex the animation is, where it's being hosted, and where it's placed within your document, the first preview the receiver gets may be a blank spot in the email (and hopefully they don't hit delete instead of waiting).
My clients never saw a difference in response based on animation vs no animation, but that could be due to working with 95% B2B clients. In that arena, the last thing you want is your message getting clouded by random text & images fading in and out.
Here's our testing results from a while back: http://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/post/2498/support-for-animated-gifs-in-h/