For a while, everyone claimed rich media email was going to revolutionize the industry but, last time I checked, the number of video or flash emails I'm getting is pretty small. So what's up with rich media email?
First there are viruses. Viruses mean email security. Email security means things like video players, Macromedia Flash and even Java are disabled by default. It's not that these things allow viruses into your computer but, instead, the same mechanisms used by these "plug-ins" can be co-opted by virus writers.
Secondly, the original impetus behind rich media email was that it would grab the attention of recipients in a way that plain old HTML would not. While nearly all the studies I've seen support this, the basic notion of "grabbing attention" is not as powerful as it once was. In other words, email as advertising is less effective just as email as a relationship tool becomes more effective. The benefit of "grabbing attention" simply goes down in this evolving environment. People respond to your brand more than your visual sizzle.
Does this mean rich media is dead? I certainly hope not. Silverpop prides itself on having some of the most powerful, built-in, easy to use rich media solutions available. In fact, we have many customers that make tremendous use of this capability every day. They key is to apply rich media more intelligently in the increasingly relationship-oriented world of email. Use video when the medium helps get your message across. Use flash when you can relay your products more powerfully. Remember that, if you have a relationship in place and your recipients trust your brand and your messages, they are far more likely to enable rich media for your messages or be more willing to click on that "click to view" link so they can see the full message in their browser. Although rich media definitely is not dead, I don't see it revolutionizing email marketing anytime soon.