Animated GIFs: All Grown Up


How fortunes have changed for the humble animated GIF. The animated form of the Graphics Interchange Format has been around since the earliest days of the web, when it was characterized by clunky rotating icons, dancing hamsters and flashing “under construction” signs. In the early 2000s animated GIFs fell out of popularity, considered tacky in comparison to slicker technologies like Flash.

But the animated GIF enjoyed a renaissance in the late 2000s, as users tapped into the format’s capabilities for fun and creative expression. Image-driven social sites like Flickr, Tumblr, Reddit and Pinterest have become havens for sharing interesting GIFs. Now the phenomenon has caught the attention of big brands who’ve added GIFs to their sites, emails and social networks.

Analyzing the Appeal, Frame by Frame

Animated GIFs can be used to tell stories and capture emotion. They’re simple to create from still images or a few video frames, with the option to add text and logos. GIFs require short load times because of small file sizes, so they’re easily sharable. They can be used to subtly add a hint of animation to mimic the look of video without the investment of shooting custom video.

The possible applications for the format are endless. Marketers love animated GIFs because they can capture consumers’ valuable attention in a scant matter of seconds. Animated GIFs offer interesting ways for audiences to interact with your company’s brand, product or service, and share their experience with others.

Following are a few good examples of how companies have put animated GIFs to work.

To spotlight a new product:

American Apparel used an animated GIF to announce new Sheer Nail Laquer on its Tumblr blog with accompanying text about this limited-time-only offering of “vibrant-yet-sheer colors” inspired by and named after beaches in Southern California.


To bring an email invitation to life:

Anthropologie used one large animated GIF on an email to invite viewers to follow them on Pinterest, a unique, eye-catching way.


To capture moments in time:

Animated GIFs are the perfect vehicle to display an entertaining or amazing video clip that people enjoy watching on instant replay, over and over. For example, 2012 Olympic US Women’s soccer goalie Hope Solo’s great save helped the team win Olympic gold.


Always in Motion is the Future

It’s impressive to see how animated GIFs have grown up in such a short time. Who knows, it may progress to the point that the next generation of users will consider moving GIFs to be the default online photo format – for them, still photos on the web might look as old-fashioned as black & white TV. Now if we could only get the Hamster Dance song out of our heads…

Want more examples? Check out the Animated GIF Society on Pinterest.

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