Everything old is new again. But before you dust off your Atari and add those twinkling stars back into your website’s background… let’s set the facts straight. The “old” in this case is the GIF, a 1987 file-format that stands for “Graphics Interchange Format.” And the “new” we’re referring to is platforms like Vine, Tumblr, Giphy, and Instagram.

What are GIFs?
GIFs are image files that can be used almost anywhere you would use a PNG, JPEG, or other standard image file. What makes GIFs unique is that they can be animated, allowing creators to produce a series of still images that, when compiled one after another, produce a flipbook-like effect.

Adjust the file quality, differentiation between stills, or length of the animation, and you can push past the flipbook-feel entirely, producing a piece of content that is for all intents and purposes a silent film. The image below (via pencilscoop) is an example of a high quality GIF. While the example below may look like a video, it’s actually 180 individual images rapidly rendered one after another with infinite loop playback.


Why GIFs for advertising?

GIFs are cropping up everywhere in the marketing and advertising world this year. David Hayes, who heads up Tumblr’s creative strategy, recently told AdWeek:

“We’re now six months into 2015, and we’ve already done three times the number of campaigns that we did all of last year. If you take into account that 90 percent of all the content we’re creating are animated GIFs, that speaks to how popular that content is on Tumblr.”

Creative powerhouses like Giphy and Tumblr’s Creatrs program are now go-to agencies for brands looking to develop GIF assets for use in Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram campaigns.

GIFs allow brands to speak in a way that connects with people through the cultural channels they already know and use. Similar to emojis, GIFs emphasize the visual, wordless, and contemporary.

How to Get Started With GIFs

  1. Get inspired. Visit Giphy to get an idea of the types of GIFs brands are publishing.
  2. Create your own. Depending on your tech skill, you can use a free web-based app, like makeagif or imgflip. Or, you can use a helpful tutorial like this one to make a GIF from scratch in Photoshop.
  3. Twitter now allows GIFs (and videos) to autoplay, which makes it a great platform for sharing your GIFs. Personal Facebook pages will autoplay GIFs, but brand Pages do not yet have this capability. (We expect that will change soon.) Tumblr, Instagram, and Vine are also great places to share your GIF, though you will have to convert the file format to .mp4 for the last two.

Does Your Brand Use GIFs for Marketing? Why or Why Not?
Do you think GIFs are a trend worth investing in? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.