The use of websites in movie marketing has evolved significantly over the last 15 years. Static, boring sites with Quicktime trailers that took forever to load have given way to fully responsive sites with YouTube embeds.
As the social web has grown, sites began at first to link to MySpace profiles, with those fading out as Facebook and Twitter emerged and began achieving critical user mass. Then came Instagram profile links and, most recently, prompts to connect with the movie on Snapchat.
One network notably missing from that list of promoted profiles has been Giphy, the platform allowing people to upload and share GIFs. That omission occurred to me when I saw a Tweet from the official account for The Little Hours, an upcoming comedy about a group of very ill-behaving nuns starring Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie and Kate Mucucci, with a link to a Giphy account full of GIFs from the film.
Curious about what else I might be missing, I did some digging on Giphy to see what other movies might be lurking there. What I found was surprising.
There’s a whole repository there for Star Wars. And one for Star Trek. Other upcoming movies have profiles as well, including Cars 3, The Beguiled, Transformers: The Last Knight and others. And if you go back a bit there are profiles for What We Do In the Shadows, The Hunger Games, Hateful Eight, Batman v Superman, Beauty and the Beast and other recent releases.
In most all those cases, the GIFs being shared are from key moments in whatever trailers or clips are being released. So if you want the “shame circle” from What We Do In the Shadows or the fateful dinner from The Beguiled or Lightning McQueen’s big crash from Cars 3, you’re in luck. It’s not just individual movies, many of the major (and minor) studios and distributors have profiles as well where they share GIFs from upcoming movies:
- 20th Century Fox
- Anchor Bay
- Sony Animation
- Disney Animation
- Paramount (actually has two profiles, the other one here)
- Screen Gems
- Focus World
- The Orchard
They’re all part of Giphy’s Partners program, which gives brands access to image hosting and advanced functionality, making sure those GIFs are given a good and socially-friendly home. It also opens up access to Giphy’s team of artists, which will take existing videos and pull out GIFs, automatically posting them to the brand profile. While it’s entirely likely movie studios have the creative talent to handle GIF creation, many companies may not and so this is a valuable resource to have at their disposal.
Studios and other companies are wise to invest time and resources into Giphy. Last October the company announced it surpassed 100 million daily users who, largely through integrations with Facebook Messenger, Twitter and other social and messaging platforms, send one billion GIFs to each other each day. As many have pointed out, GIFs, a format that recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, are the new language of the internet, having experienced a resurgence in popularity in the last five or six as mobile media took off and people looked for a media that could tell a story but was easily viewed quickly on phones. It’s not a conversation until someone has replied with an “Arrested Development” GIF, after all.
So, if Giphy is such an attractive and well-connected platform and GIFs in general are so popular, why don’t studios throw a link to a profile on the websites for their movies? The best answer available may be that it’s not a news and conversion channel. Facebook and Twitter - and even Instagram and Snapchat - have the potential to drive traffic to either important news stories about the movie or to direct ticket sales.
They can’t do that on Giphy, which is purely about social engagement. So it’s important for them to have a presence there for when people might want to insert a GIF of the advice Brie Larson offers in Free Fire into a Tweet they’re composing, but they don’t need to overtly draw attention to it. Still, the effort to add another icon and link to a webpage can’t be too intensive.
It’s also not as if studios haven’t embraced promotion of GIFs in their online movie marketing. Many recent official websites have been built on Tumblr, with that platform’s blogging capabilities used to share GIFs from the upcoming movie. You’ll find them on the sites for Wonder Woman, Kong: Skull Island, John Wick Chapter 2 and more. So there’s more value seen in Tumblr, which allows for reblogging and other sharing that can help spread word-of-mouth, than in Giphy, which is basically Flickr for GIFs but without even the former’s social elements. You can’t create a profile on Giphy and share or reshare with others. It’s just a storing house.
Giphy may never get the overt promotion that networks like Twitter and Instagram do, at least not barring major changes to its functionality. Even without those changes, it’s become an important tool for many of Hollywood’s marketers, though one that remains in the background much of the time.