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Facebook buying Giphy means more to tech rivals than it does advertisers


By James Whatley | strategy partner

May 19, 2020 | 5 min read

The surprise move by tech giant Facebook to buy Giphy and bring with it its 700 million users in a deal valued at $400m seems like a shrewd move on paper. James Whatley, strategy partner at Digitas UK offers his take on what advertisers, and rival tech companies, should make of it.

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Facebook buying Giphy means more to tech rivals than it does advertisers

Facebook bought Giphy – but what does that mean for brands?


Not much.

If you are a brand working with Giphy today – either by having your own branded channel or paid promotion of your branded gifs, I really can't imagine much changing for you in the short term.

In the mid-term, you can probably expect a tighter integration with the rest of your Facebook paid advertising. For some of you, you might even have a meeting with your Facebook client partner (end of Q3 at the earliest) where Giphy will be brought to the table as ‘an exciting new proposition that you should like totally consider investing in‘.

In the long term, you can almost certainly bank on Facebook Ad Manager having a ‘Publish ad to Stories‘ with Instagram, Facebook, and Giphy all being an option.

Hell, knowing Facebook, give it 18 months and it‘ll be running best practice gif immersion sessions for clients, with a seventeen slide AI-driven deck on how IT knows which part of your 30 second ad would make a good gif (and not the agency that developed it).

That‘s the easy money.

But what if you’re not a client or an agency. What if, instead, you would describe yourself as a platform – specifically a platform not owned by Facebook? Well then, for you, things might get a little bit trickier.

Giphy powers I would argue almost 100% of the gifs across the western social web.

Reminder: Facebook owns that now.

If you are Microsoft, or Slack, or Twitter, or (Facebook‘s biggest worry bead right now) TikTok then suddenly your crisis teams are no longer about updating the WFH policy. The new question is: how quickly can we get our own gif platform up and running?

Let’s be fair here, Facebook said in its announcement:

“We’re looking forward to investing further in Giphy‘s technology and relationships with content and API partners. People will still be able to upload GIFs; developers and API partners will continue to have the same access to GIPHY’s APIs, and GIPHY’s creative community will still be able to create great content. [sic]“

It‘s worth pointing out that way back in April 2012 Facebook also said:

“We think the fact that it is connected to other services beyond Facebook is an important part of the experience.“

When it dropped a billion dollars for Instagram. When was the last time you saw an IG preview on Twitter?

That‘d be December 2012.

You know the golden rule here: trust in what Facebook does, not what Facebook says.

So look, bottom line: you don‘t need me to tell you that gifs and memes are the modern and universal language of the social web. For a mere $400m USD, Facebook just took a chunk out of the platforms named above – and then some. From iMessage to Google Keyboard – almost everything that has a gif button on it now has a FB-branded gif button on it.

For brands, nothing much will change. If anything, things will get easier (although I must say, every interaction I‘ve ever had with Giphy has been absolutely dreamy –​ look at this lovely (Digitas client) brand page – verified in a heartbeat, thanks Giphy).

The wider web and for general humans? It might turn out to be a bit of a pain. Y‘know, like when Facebook rolled out its own video proposition and relegated YouTube embeds to links that you have to click on in-feed?

That kinda stuff.

For now: trebles all round for Giphy.

Let‘s see what 2021 brings.

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