By Michelle Barnett
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Rise of the Gif: the mini-animation

Gifs have been taking over the online world for some time now, particularly when it comes to social media, email updates, or website headers.  They’ve become so popular and adaptable that they’re now a great option for branding and marketing, and some pretty big companies have been getting in on the gif action.

An animated gif for Boden advertising 25% off

A gif is just a type of picture, but an animated gif will display a series of these pictures in quick succession, giving the look of a simple video.  Photographer Jamie Beck described it as “a photograph that is still alive”, although of course a gif can be made of graphics or illustrated images as well as photos.  The gif can be placed into an email or website just like a normal image, and will play on repeat where it is, rather than the viewer needing to click through to another host site such as Youtube. This makes them a fantastic tool for advertising campaigns, like this example from Boden.

The big plus of gifs is that their simplicity means that their file size can be kept relatively small, so they load quickly.  And even if your phone or email browser loses web access or decides not to allow the gif to move, you’re still left with a nice still image rather than the annoying loading bar a video would give you.

Facebook has recently allowed users to post gifs in their statuses, which, let’s be honest, has mainly given us access to an endless library of memes, delightful reaction gifs, and adorable clips of cats (Who doesn’t love an adorable cat?) but for companies promoting their brands this is a quick and easy way to grab the viewer’s attention and make them smile.  The fact that the gif automatically loops gives you scope for something clever; having an object build up or break down, or appear to run in one continuous motion, like this amusing paper octopus from Anthropologie’s campaign.

A gif for anthropologie clothing, inviting customers to hang out with each other.

Why am I showing you a paper octopus?

As with all online activity related to brands, you don’t want to only talk about sales but also show your client base who you are and where your interests intersect with theirs. We’re now very engaged with the human side of the organisations we interact with, and something fun or intellectually stimulating can be just as good for brand loyalty as an advert.

Another benefit of using graphics for your gif is that realism isn’t a restriction. We’ve done a few gifs of our own, and a Halloween scene that would have taken ages to achieve with a photoshoot can be made in just a few hours, with spooky candlelit pumpkins and a witch swooping overhead.

Although I’m singing the praises of gifs here; one word of warning. Use them sparingly. You can have too much of a good thing. Get carried away and before you know it you’ve cluttered up the space with so many moving objects that your customer doesn’t know where to look, your web page resembles a horrible accident in a disco lights factory, and you’re being taken away by the Design Police.

With gifs it’s usually a case of ‘Less is More’. There is a place for longer animations, but they do a different job (incidentally, we make those too, and you can find out about them here).

A gif for Ann Taylor, promoting guilt free gifts
Gif for bonobos to showcase the new clothing items that have arrived.

Impact of a gif

The shorter and snappier a gif is, the more impact it has, and the fact that they loop can lead to some really smart and funny effects. A simple moment of flair – a twinkling title, a colour change, a progression of images that tells a little story – these are gifs at their classiest and most effective. This clickable ad from Ann Taylor Loft only has one little movement, a shaking present, but it’s thoughtful and intriguing precisely because it’s so minimal.  Likewise Bonobos‘ gif changes the patterns showing on it’s text to get some attention, adding visual interest while linking back to the fact that this is a fashion brand.

Is there somewhere in your brand that could use a little extra spark?  Maybe a gif is just what you’ve been looking for…



Images from Mail Bakery and Ometria

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