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Can GIFs Be a Viable Revenue Stream?

Marketers are beginning to pay more attention to GIFs. You know, those short looping videos that are literally everywhere on social. Warc reports that marketers are assessing their potential, trying to determine how best to use them. If you’re thinking, “GIFs aren’t exactly new so why all the fuss now?” you’re not wrong. The file format (Graphics Interchange Format) has been around since 1987 and refers to any short, 3-5 second, video.

However, it’s now becoming the go to language which millennials use to communicate via text. Publishers and consumers are excited about these shareable moments. Everyone wants to be a part of this market. Facebook has even just launched GIFs in its comments section.

marketing and GIFs


Who doesn’t love a GIF?

Earlier this year, Tenor (who created a universal GIF keyboard you can download to your smartphone) conducted research and gained insight into the impact of GIFs on consumer behaviour. Through examination of a few big name brands like Netflix and Coca-Cola, Tenor discovered just how frequently brand-related GIFs show up when consumers search for emotions or mood-specific keywords. For example, the research cites that Netflix fans type the keyword “sad” six million times a month to find GIFs that feature Netflix’s shows and characters.

Clearly, GIFs are a popular way to express feelings and communicate among friends. It’s great fun to receive an animated GIF via a messaging app that perfectly encapsulates the mood or tone of a conversation! For marketers, GIFs signal intent and provide us with plenty of insightful data about our audiences.

Ok, so people love GIFs. But the question remains, can GIFs be turned into a revenue stream? Unlike emojis, GIFs can be monetized.

Many brands already incorporate GIFs into their digital marketing strategy by running GIF-centered campaigns. You’ll notice GIFs in emails, infographics, on home pages, and throughout social media. But beyond those content marketing opportunities, can GIFs be turned into ad dollars?

GIF Marketing Opportunities

Sponsored Results

Sponsored results are an obvious win for monetizing GIFs. Giphy, a search engine for GIFs with 150 million unique monthly visitors, has signed license deals with companies and shows such as the Oscars. Currently 80% of Giphy’s GIFs are branded, meaning they’re from TV, movies, or celebrities that the company has content deals with.

The same search engine rules apply for Giphy as they do for Google. Meaning that even though Giphy’s search engine isn’t about links and texts, a company like Budweiser could pay for the top GIF search result for “beer” just as they could do on Google. Or the Oscars could pay for their branded GIFs to appear when someone searches for “red carpet” or “celebrity.”

Native Advertising on Mobile

Tenor reports that people use its GIF search engine 200 million times per day, with 200 million monthly active users. Despite significant user growth, the question on everybody’s mind is still  “Are GIFs a legit business?” Despite positive numbers, are these GIF companies making any money? Giphy, valued at $600 million, doesn’t bring in any revenue. But all that will likely change in the coming year.

At TechCrunch’s Disrupt NY 2016 conference, co-founder and CEO of Giphy, Alex Chung, discussed GIFs as a powerful advertising format for mobile messaging apps. He believes GIFs are the perfect format for native advertising on mobile. Giphy could potentially promote GIFs that feature a brand because GIFs are about sharing an emotion rather than something specific.

Targeting in this way, through emotion, is appealing to many marketers. The basic ideas is that people search for GIFs based on their current emotion, meaning search engine companies know how their users are feeling (sad, happy, scared, hungry, et cetera). Google shows ads based on search keywords so why not a GIF company too?

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Mobile messaging and mobile don’t yet have an ad format but GIFs might be the perfect medium. Paid GIF ad campaigns are a new, as-of-yet untested, format so only time will tell. GIF marketers, what say you?


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