Facebook’s Animated GIFs Arrived, But Not For Brands

How Long Until Brands Can Post Animated GIFS on Facebook?

Animated GIFs on Facebook
Animated GIFs on Facebook. Getty Images

Your Facebook feed is about to get a whole lot more interesting. Or, way too busy, depending on your perspective. As of March 29th 2015, animated GIFs are now auto playing in your Facebook feed. This means that those regular old still images are going to be quickly overshadowed by people wanting to grab your attention with something that animates right before you eyes.

People, that is. But not brands.

Yes, the animated GIF, which has been auto playing on Tumblr (where it has found its greatest success), Reddit, and a host of other websites and blogs, will not be something that brands can adopt. Yet.

Right now, if a brand page does post an animated GIF, all you will see is a still image. Click on it, and you’ll be taken out of your Facebook page to a host site. This is obviously not ideal for the advertisers of the world, who want to seamlessly integrate their marketing messages into your social newsfeed.

However, do we want the animated GIF to be something that ad agencies can offer to their clients? After all, we now live in a world that promotes DVRs that skip ads, software plugins that remove web banners, and pre-roll ads that have to be so short an interesting that you’ll watch them rather than skip them. 

It’s safe to say that consumers, already inundated with advertising, will not be too happy with Facebook if it allows brands to start blasting our feed with animated GIFs promoting us to buy cars, toothpastes, and the latest smart phones.

If past performance is any kind of indication of what we can expect in the future, however, then money will rule and Facebook will soon bow to the mighty dollar. Remember, in 2013 auto playing videos were introduced to just a select few users. Now, brands can use premium video ads to “reach a large audience with high-quality sight, sound and motion.” Those are the words that come straight from the Facebook For Business page.

In essence, if it makes Facebook a tone of money, they’re all for it. So, can we expect animated gifs from brands soon?

Is the Pope Catholic?

Although it wasn’t too long ago that Facebook was dead set against having any kind of auto playing animated gif in the feeds, there is no way brands are going to miss out on the animated gif craze. The only way they can do it right now is through a third-party host like Giphy, Tumblr, or Imgur. But that’s not what brands will want, as it takes people away from their Facebook experience.

Brands will want their animated GIFs on Facebook, right next to their auto play movies and other branded content. But what does this mean for the average Facebook user?

Sadly, it means yet another stream of advertising hitting them like a sledgehammer, making the whole Facebook experience less personal. Unless, that is, Facebook gives users the chance to customize their own feeds and turn off advertising, including auto playing animated GIFs, videos, and other promotional content.

Indeed, not all advertising is unwanted. Unlike the experience consumers get on typical TV, cable, and radio, (especially radio), Facebook’s advertising is geo-targeted and personalized.

If you’ve been looking around for a new car, suddenly you’ll see deals in your feed. This is consumer-focused advertising. So, while brands will not have to wait too long for the auto playing animated GIF, they should really consider how they will be serving them up.

This is another chance to engage a customer, or really annoy them. If you’re in an ad agency, think carefully if you’re offering this to your clients. If you’re a client, think carefully about demanding it from your agency.