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  • Frank Aol

Thumbnails in Video Ads

A video thumbnail can briefly be described as a still image which acts as the preview image of a video, comparable to a book cover or a poster that announces a video. In short, a good thumbnail makes the viewer wanting to watch the video and is therefore essential for increasing click rates and customer engagement in marketing campaigns. When applied in a YouTube channel, Thumbnails are as well a valuable instrument in video SEO.


Thumbnails are typically made on YouTube channels to attract viewers but can also appear within email video marketing campaigns. A clickable thumbnail in an email makes it unnecessary to embed full videos into emails. Instead, the viewer will be directed to a landing page where the video is placed. No matter where a video thumbnail appears, its design is crucial for gaining the viewers’ attention as “you never get a second chance to make a first impression”. With 2 billion active viewers on YouTube, and 78% of them watching video content weekly (55% daily), the impact of video marketing can simply not be underestimated.


Thumbnails can be created automatically by the video player; however, it must be stated that 90% of the best-performing videos have customized thumbnails. Customization can be done with simple measure such as constantly displaying a company logo to increase brand awareness or a specific identity or culture which is typically display in a unintrusive way in like in the corner of the cover image. Unintrusive arrangements are recommended in general, as well for the contrast of colors which should not be too extreme. All this has proven to increase click rates for videos considerably.


The first step of creating a good thumbnail should naturally be to create a high-quality cover photo with proper thumbnail text that describes the content of the video and causes the attention of viewers without sensationalizing. It is always advisable to reduce the text to a necessary minimum and thus to avoid an obstruction of the background photo. In a nutshell, the text should be informative, but also evoke emotions and – most importantly – curiosity to watch the video.

In terms of metric arrangement, the picture size should have a resolution of 1280 × 720 with a minimum width of 640-pixel, typically in JPG, .GIF, .PNG, and .BMP formats. The whole file size should not exceed 2 MB. The best aspect ratio is 16:9, displaying a horizontal image.


Finally, a thumbnail should trigger emotions while the right choice of the latter ones strongly depends on the targeted audience. Independently from the type of campaign, several features have proven to be emotion-triggering in thumbnail marketing. Examples include close-up facial images of humans, especially such images where the person makes eye-contact to the viewer. Next to that, emotional images have the potential to strike viewers, which means a person displayed on the image is perceived far more lividly if emotions like joy, anger, relaxation and others are displayed. Also, here it should be obligatory to avoid any exaggeration. As in all advertising or promotion campaigns, the neither the thumbnail image nor text should ever deceive the viewer by displaying a content which is not matching with the video’s content. Furthermore, bright colored thumbnail images are clicked much more often than their darker counterparts.


Furthermore, thumbnails can be upgraded with animation, appearing as a GIF. Naturally dynamic images outperform static pictures by far. Emojis and/or emoticons are such popular features, that their use in Thumbnails is recommended as well. As with other above-mentioned features, they should be applied in a subtle and unintrusive way and match with the video’s contents.

While all the above-mentioned contents about Thumbnails are apparently applicable to video marketing within a YouTube channel, a final examination should be done about Thumbnails in email video marketing. The crucial question for many marketers is here, if instead of an embedded video a Thumbnail should be used in such campaigns.



As a matter of fact, many receiver’s emails do not support embedded emails which is a first argument for the use of thumbnails in email video marketing. With a clickable Thumbnail there is also a measurable CTA in an email which allows to check the engagement of the target audience. The connection to a landing page additionally improves a website’s SEO and keeps the audience away from third-party platforms like YouTube which is an additional factor contributing to brand awareness. Saying this, Thumbnails are a powerful tool in email campaigns which should not be overlooked and remarkably increase open and click rates. According to various studies the word “video” in the subject line increases the open rate of emails by 20%.






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