Shortcut to the good stuff.

Louie Sumpter


If a picture is worth a thousand words, then how much is a picture that moves worth? Well, the answer is $300m, that’s according to this video from Vox charting the rise of the GIF economy.

GIF’s have become a powerful mode of expression for many. According to Adam Liebsohn, COO at Giphy, our brains are wired for visual communication. Why bother trying to explain to someone in words that fleeting emotion halfway between exasperation and incredulity when a three-second clip of monkey frowning can say it all for you. Liebsohn goes onto explain that people are increasingly seeking out emotive content. Content we can use to convey how we’re feeling. Content we can use to make our friends laugh, cry or coo.

Inadvertently we’re turning ourselves into brand ambassadors for whichever brand’s content we happen to be sharing, and that’s what Giphy are looking to capitalise on. For now, they’re just looking to make GIF’s ubiquitous and ensure their use becomes as widespread as possible. Ultimately though, their long-term goal is to partner with brands to create branded GIF’s that people can use in their day to day communications. If they can achieve this then the prize is being able to sneak ads into people’s personal text, email and messenger feeds; an area that to date has remained out of reach for advertisers.

The fact we’ll soon all be using branded GIF’s to express ourselves shouldn’t come as a surprise. Brands have always leaned on our emotions. They have long sought to equate themselves to a feeling, just think about Coke and ‘happiness’ or Volvo and ‘safety’. Emotions are fundamental to the promises they make and the way they market themselves.

And we as consumers have played our part too. We have long used brands as identity markers to help us communicate who we are. Borrowing the associations they offer to carefully craft our outward personas to the world. We choose brands on the basis of what they say about us, on their ability to reflect our status, tastes and beliefs. So, the idea we’ll soon be using them to communicate how we feel would appear to be the next logical step in this relationship.

What appeals is the brutally reductive nature of the branded GIF. This type of content distils a brand down into a feeling and then distils this feeling down into a five-second clip. It allows brands to shortcut straight to the good stuff, to tap directly into the emotions that power them. In this sense, it’s brand building at its most fundamental, but also I suspect most effective.