GIFS! First of all, what is a GIF? Glad you asked, a GIF is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format. GIFs are image files that are compressed to reduce transfer time. The proper pronunciation of the acronym is a soft “G” sound like JIF, however many users of the internet are still up for debate on which pronunciation to use. GIFs are best described as short looping videos mainly used for entertainment on social media platforms and mobile apps. GIFs first became popular on the social media site Myspace before being overcome by Facebook. Myspace was the place to be in 2005 – 2006 and many people first started noticing these short videos here. You may have also seen them in animated advertising, email signatures, web forums, and social avatars.
Even though GIFs truly grew with social media it first came about in June of 1987 created by Steve Wilhite of Compuserve. The GIFs true purpose was to improve upon black and white image transfers with 256 colors while still retaining a compressed format that slow modems could load more effectively. We would later see his creation used on such things today known as “click bait” starting in 1996 as people would place GIFs on their websites to make them look flashier. The GIF would then grab the attention of people on the website and prompt them to buy a product or subscribe to an email newsletter.
Before the creation of GIFs we know them today, the short 5 second clips that loop over and over didn’t show up until Myspace became popular. GIFs slowly gained in popularity over the years and also began to complement many apps with the creation of the smartphone. Not many apps would be as popular today if it wasn’t for GIFS. Apps such as Reddit, Ifunny, and Tumblr are just a few platforms that use GIFs in everyday user-generated content. GIFs have become so popular you can now even send them via text to your friends; sometimes this can help you express yourself even better than emojis or words.
These interactions, whether on your phone or through your social media, have mainly been reserved for the Millennial generation. The interaction would look foreign to many outside of the generation’s age bracket, but blogs like WSWCM are paving the way for such tightly packaged and cheerful communication. They’ve written the recipe, and GIFs are the ingredients. Matthew Rader from Reader + Rader states, “I think that animated GIFs are the true artistic medium of the Internet, which has an inherent sense of silliness and playfulness of fun in the culture already.”
Even though GIFS were designed to be more helpful for transferring large files, they’ve turned into more of a fun way to share your humor. However, with the rise of video and digital marketing through social media we’re starting to see a new branch of GIFs come to view. Many marketers these days are using GIFs to show their products or the process at which their products are created. Using these short compressed clips not only captures the consumer’s attention by being so short, but also ingrains the process with the video looping over showing the process of what the marketer wants several times before the consumer leaves their page. Using the GIF correctly with products will allow consumers a greater experience instead of a still photo and providing a sense of transparency; something the millennial generation craves these days.
The GIF movement has also led to some truly profound pieces of art, much of which is interactive. GIFs recently have been experimented stereoscopically creating the illusion of depth. You can move your mouse around an image to manipulate the scene of these GIFs. It’s truly amazing these days to see how marketing has simplified. In the past we have seen marketing done via newspaper, television, radio, billboards, and now with GIFs on the internet. We see the evolution of marketing becoming shorter and more simplified to keep hold of consumers shortening attention spans. That being said, no matter how you pronounce it, “JIF” or “GIF” be on the lookout for them. Send them to your friends and enjoy a short little video today that’s paving the way for digital user-generated content.
Brett Brooks is a Partner at RedFox Creative. For more information or to leave a comment, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.