GIFs as The New Branded Language and Future of Advertising


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Social Media Week

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“We’re gonna break the corporate world from the inside out.”

Microsoft just this month released a Giphy plug-in for their Outlook software, and Adam Leibsohn, Chief Operating Officer at Giphy, is excited about it.

GIFs have seen incredible growth over the past 12-18 months alone. With over 95 million users, GIFs have become a means of communication that lives at our very fingertips in nearly every form of digital conversation, including Facebook Messenger, Slack, Gmail… and even Outlook.

In the early days, Giphy hacked a Twitter card to get GIFs inside the platform. The company needed to be where the conversation was happening.

Sabrina Pacheco engages directly with brands in her role leading Brand Partnerships at Giphy. When she first joined the company, she was told, “We want your grandma to be able to send GIFs on whatever it is she uses to send them.”

“Getting GIFs to work in Tinder was a no-brainer for us,” said Leibsohn. “If I can flirt in GIFs…”

When thinking about a GIF strategy, Pacheco advises brands to focus on the brand first and the video content second.

“You need to think about what brand strategy you’re pursuing in everything that you do,” she explained. “Think about those emotions, reactions, moments, colors, feelings—and then work back from that.”

User-generated content (UGC) is another avenue for GIFs that brands often emphasize. At first, Pacheco noted, brands were concerned with seeing every piece of UGC—and making sure it disappeared if they did not approve. But Pacheco has seen a shift: brands are starting to do it right, in her view, giving people content that they can run with and make part of their own experience with the brand.

Take Hotline Bling.

“Drake is very smart,” said Leibsohn. “He created a primer for everybody: good background, subject matter… Suddenly he’s not reacting to a conversation about him—he provoked it and is controlling it. He owns it.”

GIFs have similar application in politics. Hillary Clinton, for one, has her own page on Giphy. Her team reached out to Giphy to create it.

This could be an “incredibly powerful election year for digital-savvy candidates,” Leibsohn noted.

In Leibsohn’s view, the acceleration and opportunity for Giphy is only just beginning.

“What a GIF does is removes a barrier. With a GIF, you’re in my phone, you’re in my text message… It’s a much more personal relationship with the content and what’s in it.”

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Kate Canfield

MBA Student, Columbia Business School

@kjlcanfield

Kate is an MBA student at Columbia Business School focused on technology, entrepreneurship and international business. Before grad school, she directed business development for a New York City startup and managed a team of consultants on revenue-driving strategies for new ventures. She has supervised product-development across multiple projects as a nonfiction editor at St. Martin’s Press and has reported on events and conferences on a range of topics in NYC since 2011. She holds a B.A. cum Laude in economics from Amherst College.



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