The provision of “official” GIFs also demonstrates that controlling what is provided and how it is accessed is a key concern for many media rights holders. This control extends to developing specific settings for GIF engagement. Content providers like Disney and Viacom have launched their own branded keyboards in addition to hosting their own GIF channels on Giphy. Smartphone apps like the RuPaul’s Drag Race Keyboard App offer GIFs (and custom emoji) specific to a particular show. Snaps, the developer of the Drag Race app, has also produced similar commercial keyboards for shows including Mr. Robot, Portlandia, and Broad City. According to Snaps executive Austin Bone, these keyboards are a way for media properties to “empower” their fans (…).

Such “empowerment” is a lucrative endeavor. On top of inserting branded content into private conversations—an arguable advertising success in its own right—a keyboard app provides brands with valuable metrics, including realtime tracking of how many conversations are happening using the app, what content is being used the most frequently within those conversations, and by whom. These keyboards help brands achieve the holy grail of branded advertising: a multi-layered commodification of affect on the most intimate level.

Miltner, K. M., & Highfield, T. (2017). Never Gonna GIF You Up: Analyzing the Cultural Significance of the Animated GIF. Social Media Society, 3(3), 1-11.
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