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Are GIFs Ads In Disguise?

GIFs have recently turned 30 years old and they can be found everywhere, they are used for expressing feelings to joke around with people you know. They are easy to find and share and can be found on messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, iMessage and more and on Social Media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.

On the GIF below you can see a Domino’s logo, that isn’t going to prevent most pizza-lovers from sharing the GIF in a conversation as long as it makes sense. GIF search engines are getting paid by companies such as Dominos to push their brands, because of sites like tenor, which is a GIF keyboard, it’s turned into a revenue model.dominos pizza with sunglasses fanning itself with money

The Birth Of GIFs

Most might not know where GIFs come from since many of us use search engines or sites like Imgur and Reddit to find or discover them or through GIF search engines like Giphy. One of the first GIF search engines was Tenor, previously known as Riffsy. This site is used about 200 million times per day and they are looking into monetizing its business by tapping into search terms as well which are different from the regular terms you would use in a search engine like Google.

Google Vs. Tenor – The Differences

Google is very intent driven, you want to find out specific information whereas on tenor you would search for things like “happy”, “hungry” or “grin” to find something that shows how you’re feeling or to describe a situation in a chat. The biggest difference between the two is that Tenor is used as a search engine for our feelings, thoughts as emotions. How often does someone actually go to Google and type in “happy” and expect to see GIFs representing that feeling? Google is now using Tenor’s API (Application Programme Interface) over their own image search in order to power GIFs in Gboard (their keyboard app) makes it very clear that there’s value in looking at these terms. According to Teno’s CEO and founder, 60% of their volume is about raw emotion, 30% are emotions plus a term like minions and the final 10% are people searching for a specific GIF. The end goal is to map out these terms and emotions with advertisers which in turn will create GIFs for advertising purposes like the one from Dominos.

How To Appear In Tenor

If you search for a term like “Good morning”, you could potentially see a GIF from a brand. A brew in the morning is a must for many so a brand like Starbucks or Costa could pay Tenor to map the content provided to specific terms like: morning, coffee, good morning, this will ensure that the branded GIFs are the first results. The model costs per share, meaning that Costa or Starbucks would only have to pay Tenor when someone has shared their branded GIF.

a hot cup of coffee

Will This Mean The End Of GIFs?

In my opinion, no. We will rarely shy away from sharing GIFs because they describe so many scenarios perfectly and it’s a new way of communicating through messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Messenger. Even if they are branded ads it’s a way for people to be part of a larger conversation which can be an added bonus as it will still portray a particular emotion. However, if brands want their GIFs to be successful they will need to be high-quality ones, no one is interested in sharing a poorly made one.

As mentioned previously, GIFs are predominantly cultural soundbites and make up an entire language of a culture that we use on a daily basis to express how we feel and think online. When you share a Starbucks GIF, it’s the same choice as walking into Starbucks to grab a coffee when you’re out.

What are your thoughts, do you think this will mean the end of GIFs as we know them?



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