Opportunities in Animated GIF
One of the biggest innovations in the history of the Internet was the ability to integrate photographs and
other illustrations with text on a web page. The main advantages of GIF animation are that it is
incredibly simple to work with and it is automatically recognizable to most Web browsers. Animated
images otherwise known as GIFs — have been around for 25 years, and in 2015, the GIF trend has never
been stronger. Back in the mid to late 90s, at the dawn of the Internet age, GIFs were normally
characterized by tacky little clipart images that moved skittishly, often scattered across sites built on
Geocities or Angelfire.
Today, GIFs are playing an increasingly important role in breaking news on the web, telling stories
through photojournalism and giving us new ways to express our emotions when we can’t do it in person.
There’s no doubt about it that GIFs and social media have indeed become BFFs. The NY Times says that
people in their 20s likely experience some sense of nostalgia for the awkward clipart GIF images many of
us were exposed to in the 90s when we started exploring the Internet for the first time. GIFs offer a
much more convenient, faster and totally silent way to express something. It’s the perfect combination
between images and video that really captures our attention.
How Companies Make Money with GIF
People soon started to realize that there was a demand for Gifs and where there is a demand, there is
money to be made. The biggest company which produced these sorts of Gifs was a website called
“Animation Factory” who’s sole business was to create Gifs of anything you could possibly imagine and
by the late 90’s had produced over 500,000 gifs at the time. At their peak, Animation Factory was
making about 2 million dollars a year by selling Gifs during a time when the Internet was only just
By the mid 2000’s, the Internet began using templates for web design and the Gif lost its use as a means
to decorate ones website or blog. However, in the late 2000’s internet bandwidth became faster and
people started using Gifs as a mode of expression which gave rise to websites like Tumblr and Reddit to
share these with the world. Because of this rise in Gif popularity, businesses noticed that there was
money to be made in advertising.
One such company out there capitalizing on the growing popularity and potential advertising
opportunities is a website called Giphy, which basically acts as a Gif search engine and they plan to make
their money by partnering with big brands like Saturday Night Live, to make gifs of that brands content
which people can then share in their day to day conversations.
So what you might send a Gif of Rihanna expressing what you want to tell a friend, CBS sees that as an
opportunity to advertise their network as a means to have much better engagement with their online
content. Big brand companies see this as a huge opportunity and are using this as a solution to finally
being able to advertise in your email and text feeds.
In a traditional advertising world, a typical advertiser would have to spend a lot of money to get their
message through to their consumer and they use all kinds of tactics to try and interrupt your experience
in the chance that you will click or that their message sinks in. Instead of the brand shoving the message
down someone’s throats, people are the ones being the brand ambassadors. They are self-identifying
with the content because they selected it, they’re endorsing it because they sent it to you and you’re
both bonding over it emotionally because you are using it to communicate.
The Future of Animated GIF
The GIF isn’t going anywhere. If anything, people will figure out ways to use them even more. The GIF
trend will most likely call for more social networks to offer GIF support. Twitter, for example, has made
it possible for a variety of content types to be embedded directly in tweets through Twitter Cards, but so
far, Twitter does not yet support the GIF format.
Everyone in today’s world is searching for content, and many are searching for expressive content (hello,
goodbye, good to see you) but they are really searching for that content through whatever is the
popular cultural sensation at that moment in time whether it’s some brand new TV show or a clip of a
popular movie. From an advertiser’s perspective, they should be focusing on doing more of this and for
us as the consumer, we should expect to see it happen in the blink of an eye. Websites and blogs are
now looking at how the GIF can enrich the visitor experience and encourage them to share their
content. Many are taking inspiration from BuzzFeed and sites from the Gawker network, which are
already using GIF imagery to drive more traffic and create more interest. Some say that GIFs are the
future of photojournalism. Others say they’re just dumb animations that teenagers like to make instead
of doing their homework. Whether you like it or not, the animated GIF is here to stay. You don’t exactly
need to be on Tumblr or need to be a dedicated BuzzFeed reader to know it. It seems as if the Internet
has fallen in love with the GIF, and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of it in the future.