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So Hot Right Now: Animated GIFs Are Eating Advertising

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If you’ve been on Tumblr, you’ve no doubt seen the GIF meme, “Put Your Finger Here”. If you haven’t, here’re a few so you can get a taste because they’re funny. (Click the GIF to get it to animate.)

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If you can’t get enough of these, you’re in luck! “Golden Touch”, the new music video from Japanese pop superstar Namie Amuro and directors Masashi Kawamura and Kenji Yamashita, takes your finger on an adventure in fish tanks, music studios and more. You’ll pop bubbles, press buttons on a sampler, touch a unicorn and more you can only dream about.

While “Golden Touch” looks to the animated GIF for inspiration, it’s not alone. Filmmakers and advertisers have discovered the GIF’s allure of the GIF and are incorporating it into their work. Fox TV’s ADHD block in fact branded themselves with the form of the GIF, and they took their bumpers from the best GIFs they’d made for their Tumblr.

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Other companies are exploring GIFs in advertising too. In 2014, FIAT started an ad campaign featuring lots of looping videos tailormade to be ripped into GIFs. That said, I would be deeply surprised if anyone not paid by FIAT made any of the loops into GIFs. Like a lot of commercials trying to leap on a bandwagon they don’t really get, the FIAT spots were ugly, obnoxious and really, really try-hard.

On the other side is the filmmaking duo Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. You can see the influence of the GIF on them in their surrealist sketch show Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job! — fast-paced editing and photo manipulation make some scenes feel like GIFs (as you can see on Tumblr). Likewise, their weird anti-ad advertisement for Totino’s uses many of the same techniques as Awesome Show.

Even though Tim & Eric’s work looks like it could be a GIF, it doesn’t come off as a social media plea. Part of that is the semi-antagonistic way they’re treating their audience, but the surreal images come and go. By looping the video, the FIAT ad underlines the fact that this is supposed to be a GIF and all but point-blank asks the viewer to “PLEASE GIF THIS AND SHARE IT!”

Tim & Eric’s video doesn’t seem to particularly care whether or not you GIF it, share it or even like it. And it’s the Tim & Eric method that works. If you do a Tumblr search for FIAT GIF, the only GIFs you’ll see from the FIAT ad campaign are from the official FIAT Tumblr account. On the other hand, a search for “Totino Boy” brings lots of results from Tim & Eric fans who made their own GIFs to share.

Finally, one of the best commercials, and the most successful in combining the art of the GIF with video is this ad from Skittles… which just so happens to be the first instance of the “Put Your Finger Here” meme: