Brands embrace sponsored GIFs on Tenor

There’s a Reason You’re Seeing Those Doughnut GIFs

Dunkin’, an early adopter, now has company. AT&TSprintNestléNissanKFC, and at least 15 other brands have signed up with Tenor Inc. since it began pitching sponsored GIFs a few months ago. Clients typically pay Tenor, which attracts 300 million people a month, $100,000 to $500,000 to place GIFs they’ve created in results the search engine deems relevant. The fees climb as more users share the sponsored GIFs in messaging apps. “Brands have never been able to get you to send an ad to someone else,” says David McIntosh, Tenor’s chief executive officer. “It’s like cutting out a Wendy’s ad from a newspaper and sending it to a friend. That’s essentially what people are doing.”

Tenor has almost as many users as Twitter, and it’s gotten there a lot faster. The four-year-old search engine’s related tool, GIF Keyboard, is pre-installed on the messaging app built into the latest version of Samsung Electronics Co.’s Galaxy S9 smartphone, and it’s available for most other popular messenger software. McIntosh says Tenor aims to add sponsored GIFs to the Samsung version within a year.

Although the $94 billion digital ad business has developed other ways to creep into messaging software, including custom emojis, GIFs give advertisers a way to associate themselves with a particular feeling or cultural moment. (Sometimes there’s no better way to express excitement than sharing a clip of Jonah Hill silently screaming and frantically waving his hands.) Other GIF search engines, notably early leader Giphy, have pursued different ways to capitalize on the massive audience of the “graphics interchange format,” an internet fixture since the early days of the web. Tenor is the first to create an ad platform for GIF searches.

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