The humble GIF is an animated file format that has been around for more than a quarter-century now, and while the power of sharing short animated clips through GIFs is endlessly compelling, it may just fall by the wayside as Vine and Instagram become increasingly popular.[
If you haven’t heard of GIFs then you’ve probably been living under a rock. But just in case… A GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) was developed in 1987 and is by definition ‘a lossless format for compressing image files’. While this may sound dull, you might well be surprised by how much GIFs have to offer the ever-evolving digital world.
In recent times GIFs have proven to be so much more than just an image format. This is due to a number of reasons, the big one being a little website you may have heard of called Tumblr. The micro blogging website is packed with these miniature animated clips, which in my opinion gives the site one of the most dynamic and engaging newsfeeds around.
As well as Tumblr, Buzzfeed has also played a large role in the revival of the GIF. The social news and entertainment website has mastered the skill of online sharing through their famous ‘list posts’, which are often jam-packed full of GIFs.
What is so effective about a GIF is that it blends both photo and video formats, in turn giving the viewer a narrative without having to sit through minutes of footage. The beauty of the GIF is that a moment in time is captured, which you can relive again and again. It really is short and sweet story telling at its finest.
From a marketing perspective, this short and snappy delivery can effectively engage a consumer within just a number of seconds. In my experience, you’re more likely to find yourself watching a GIF over and over again, as opposed to a photo which you may merely glance at. And once a consumer’s attention is captured a relationship can be created. A great example of this is Dell’s recent GIF centric e-mail marketing campaign, which led to a 109% increase in revenue.
The Oscar nominated ‘The Wolf of Wallstreet’ also included the GIF within their marketing campaign. When fans visited the official website they had the opportunity to create a GIF using footage from the films trailer, which could then be shared on social media. By giving the fans the chance to share exclusive content with their online communities, the film in turn gained lots of free promotion from these newly appointed brand ambassadors.
However, there have been two social media giants standing in the way of the GIF going mainstream. Facebook and Twitter are yet to endorse the image format and have unwaveringly deterred hacking from the internet’s elite, who have persistently tried to take the humble GIF from cult status to entertaining the masses.
Neither site has really commented on why they don’t support GIFs natively in their newsfeeds, but I would suspect it is because they are looking after their own (Instagram and Vine). Although the GIF is completely different to these other video formats, in principle they all provide the same concept – short animations. So it is likely that this conflict has a little something to do with the current lack of GIF support.
However, you can post GIFs from Giphy directly onto social media. Technically this works on Facebook, but in reality it appears as what looks and feels like a video that you have to manually play. This ultimately defeats what a GIF is all about. With Twitter on the other hand there has been much more success and GIFs can play automatically when expanding the tweet. This may not be a 100% perfect, but it is a start.
With the modern day consumer craving content and stimulation, as well as becoming increasingly creative themselves, it seems clear to me that short animations are here to stay and hopefully so will the GIF.
To see what all the fuss is about, you can make your own GIF at the aptly named makeagif.com.