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Using GIF’s Effectively

by Matthew Dybwad

You’ve probably heard the word GIF thrown around lately. GIF is the acronym for graphics interchange format. They’ve made a comeback online in the past few years thanks to online channels such as tumblr, reddit, and even Twitter. Once a forgotten relic of the dot com boom, gifs now present an interesting marketing and communications opportunity.

It is not hard to find examples of gifs widely used in communications shops. Brands such as Adidas use gifs to share great moments in sports. Coca-Cola’s “12 Days of gifs” campaign made a big impact on tumblr during the holiday season. Nike has been known to place gifs in their press releases. Even journalists have begun to embrace the medium: the 2012 presidential debates were live-gif’ed. We now live in a time in which people use gifs to narrate complicated issues or processes, a task that Buzzfeed has successfully conquered.

Uses for gifs

Why are gifs all the rage around town? Because they can be leveraged in a number of different ways.

1) Gifs serve as calls-to-action. Use an animation that conveys an emotion and overlay it with a call-to-action. In advertising, it’s important to tell the user exactly what to do or how to feel.

2) Gifs can have an emotional impact. Use a gif that relates to your audience. Whether it’s a scene from a popular movie or a famous line, your audience is more likely to relate better to an issue or article if it is juxtaposed with recognizable elements.

3) Gifs tell a story. Find ones that thoroughly explain an idea or a narrative. While a picture can provide context and enhance content, a gif can linearly explain a complex idea.

4) Gifs bring life to boring facts. If you are struggling to highlight dry statistics in an engaging manner, consider utilizing gifs to animate your illustration and show active progression.

Depending on your communications goal, you can either use a pre-made gif, or make your own.

Using pre-existing gifs

Hundreds of “reaction gifs” can be found online, and utilizing the right ones can help convey emotion or make your audience laugh, cry, and huff along with you. Even the Heritage Foundation jumped on the Buzzfeed Community/gif bandwagon, realizing that complicated policy topics are often more easily digested in gif format.

Making your own gifs

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to be proficient in Photoshop to make a quality gif. For example, YT2GIF can convert a YouTube video to a gif without any software. If you’d like to convert a set of still images into a gif, you can use Make a Gif or Picasion. If you’d like to take video on your phone and convert it to a gif, we recommend GifBoom (available on iOS and Android).

A closing thought: earlier this year, a battle erupted over the pronunciation of gif. The inventor of the file format, Steve Wilhite, tried to settle the debate once and for all, declaring it was pronounced “jif.” The Obama e-campaign team responded by saying, “f— that s—.”

Glad that’s settled.