Cat GIF via GIPHY

The next big thing has been around (and around) for years

By Justin Westcott, Managing Director, Technology, Edelman UK

Here are a few numbers I’m going to throw at you. They might surprise you — they are big.

150,000,000 and 500,000,000,000.

These are two numbers shared by Alex Chung the CEO and founder of Giphy on stage at SXSW yesterday. Giphy, if you didn’t know, is a home for GIFs, a place where you can search for and share GIFS. Think search engine for emotions and reactions. Oh and a quick sidebar, it’s actually a soft G, so pronounced JIF not GIF — who knew?

I’m sure there are many reading this who are now saying — who the hell is Giphy? And aren’t GIFs just modern day LOL cats? Is this just meaningless online frivolity? Well, back to those numbers again.

150m — the number of unique visitors they have to the GIPHY site each month. Wow!

500,000m (half a trillion) — the amount of GIFs GIPHY has “served” as a result of searches on the site in less than 3 years.

The numbers don’t lie. This isn’t a fad or a gimmick, there is something much more important happening here. We should all take note.

What via GIPHY

For those of you that I work with, or have seen me present in the last 18 months or so, you’ll know I’m a big fan of the GIF as a way to communicate. If a picture tells a thousand words, then — as Alex said yesterday — “the GIF is equal to 60,000 words”. And that, my friends, is the point.

A GIF, for those of you that don’t know me or haven’t heard of the term before (where have you been), is a short looping autoplay video with no sound. Simple. They are easy to share across most platforms — Tumblr, SMS, PowerPoint, Outlook etc. And they can convey so much more than you can achieve with text or longer form video. GIFs seem to be the building blocks for a modern day vocabulary of feelings and actions.

Excited via GIPHY

Clearly the GIPHY numbers demonstrate that GIFs are a rapidly growing and much demanded media format.

This demand should be a marketers dream.

Brands, if not already looking at this medium, should consider how to use them to communicate (the GIF is the future of Emoji, of that I’m pretty certain) with relevancy in this age of attention scarcity. As Alex said on stage “no one reads anymore”. Go figure.

Brands should also be considering how they create clever — sometimes branded — GIFs. A great GIF will get used over, and over and over and over again… I would encourage brands to look for popular search terms that are not well served by great GIFs today and then create them. Give your audience the building blocks for their ongoing conversation.

It’s a brave new world. Why would you use words and flat images, when you can now communicate with dynamic visuals? Let’s be honest we’re not going to read books in VR now are we.

So go and explore. The GIF is not just a thought — it’s a thing.


Justin Westcott joined Edelman in 2006. He has over thirteen years’ experience of agency side experience working across technology and consumer clients. He is the Managing Director of the Edelman UK technology practice, leading a team of consultants representing some of the most interesting brands in the industry.

Originally published at www.edelman.co.uk.

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