While accepting the 2013 Webby Lifetime Achievement award, GIF creator Steve Wilhite put an end to the long heated debate of pronunciation… or did he?

The graphics interchange format or GIF was created in 1987 by Compuserve employee Steve Wilhite. At the time, Mr. Wilhite produced the GIF as a multi-purpose bitmap image format to be used across different platforms such as Apple, Atari, and IBM. The GIF has since become a cultural phenomenon on the internet expanding into apps and messaging services utilized for casual and professional communication. The trend has followed the reputation of fashion, one of which has resurfaced over the past couple years thanks to companies making them easily accessible and entertaining.

According to a new study conducted by comScore, online ads targeted toward millennials have to be around 5 to 6 seconds to be effective. Another study from Microsoft in 2015 revealed the average consumer’s attention span has dropped to eight seconds.As attention spans continue to decrease yearly, advertisers are trying to find ways to associate a brand with a customer instantly. However, consumers are finding ways to suspend all verbal and formal communication. Enter the GIF. GIFs are commonly used to express ones emotions and feelings without the use of the written word. Often associated and accompanied by emoticons, abbreviations, and emojis. Choosing to send a GIF adds another layer of entertainment and connection for both the sender and receiver. This is possible through catalogue sites such as the main player in the space, Giphy.

Fun fact: The face with tears of joy emoji was named Oxford Dictionaries ’US ‘word’ of the year in 2015, but ‘GIF’ held the position in 2012.

Giphy was created by Alex Chung and Jace Cooke in February 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The company operates as an online database and search engine that allows users to search and share animated GIF files through their favorite apps. In 2015, Facebook added GIFs to their popular feature “Messenger.” In 2016, other popular companies including Twitter, Apple, and Google added the integration into their platform in the form of a keyboard. To celebrate the creation of GIFs 30th birthday, Facebook decided to include the feature for usage in comments on posts. Giphy has now reached over 300 million user daily since October.

So how does this benefit advertisers you ask? Winston Binch, chief digital officer and a partner at Deutsch said it best in an interview with Fast Company, “You’re talking about an intimate communication. People will reject things that feel inauthentic. That’s the challenge for brands.” And that is exactly what Alex and Adam from Giphy are striving to do, connect with consumers genuinely. Giphy Chief Operating Officer, Adam Leibsohn, recently confirmed to Techcrunch, ‘that the focus will no longer be on reach, but on developing advertising formats’ within messaging apps. In simple terms, when searching for a GIF that screams your desire for it to be the weekend to your friend, a Saturday Night Live GIF featuring the Weekend Update guys, Colin Jost and Michael Che, or past favorites will be top of list. To the consumer, it may not look like advertising because it is coming from a close friend, but in reality the GIF would be sponsored by NBC.

Giphy founders forecast that Giphy will be highly creative in serving its content partners, targeting specific regions, times, and distribution services on Giphy’s network. All of this information is important for media partners and advertisers relying on the numbers and return on investment. It will be exciting to watch how digital advertising tactics change as the promise of sponsored GIFs and short-form ads come into play more prominently.

And now, for examples of how brands can leverage the use of GIFs.

  1. The NBA- With the access to live clipping, the NBA can use GIFs to advertise upcoming games, replay amazing plays, or simply showcase favorite players– Giphy link
  1. Saturday Night Live- Promote episodes with new guest hosts every week by slipping into consumers conversations about the weekend – Giphy Link
  1. Hulu- Promoting shows like Difficult People while allowing users to tell their friends “Oh no another Monday.”- Giphy Link