Social Media Startup News

Q&A with Giphy’s Adam Leibsohn

February 18, 2014

GIF culture has exploded over the past year, with short-form video content cementing itself in the way we communicate on an everyday basis. At the center of this trend has been Giphy, the GIF-based search engine and curator that seems to have a GIF for every situation. We caught up with Adam Leibsohn, Director of Strategy at Giphy, to find out where the platform is headed and how brands can get involved.

There’s been some debate. What’s the right way to pronounce ‘GIF,’ anyway?

JIF is for peanuts. We’re Giphy with a hard G… because that’s what we are, and that’s how we pronounce “GIF.”

How did the idea for Giphy come about?

We all love GIFs. But we had a hard time finding them, cataloging them and then retrieving them for later use. Everyone had their own quirky ways of solving the issue. Some of us had folders on our desktops with our favorite GIFs. Others used Excel spreadsheets to keep track of their favorites. And another group of us used a shared Google Doc to collectively collaborate on warehousing the best GIFs.

That’s when we realized there was a great opportunity to build a solution ourselves. So, that’s why we started building Giphy – to solve the problem of never being able to find the right GIF to share at a moment’s notice. And we’ve continued to innovate since then to build out tech that allows our GIFs to play inline on Twitter, Facebook and some more fun places to come.

What are some examples of successful partnerships Giphy has had with brands? What types of things are you looking to do with brands in the future?

Well, we’re biased, but we’re really proud of the work we’ve gotten to do with the 360i team. GIFs are perfect for conversation and social media, and working with 360i, we’ve been able to push our tech and use it the way it’s meant to be used.

For example, the #ROASTJOFFREY campaign for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” was great and smart. We partnered with HBO and 360i to create GIF content on-the-fly to provoke and respond to the show’s fan base on Twitter. And, not surprisingly, they ate it up, which just goes to show how GIFs can help deliver the right content at the right time – in the middle of the right conversations.


We’re looking to do partnerships that push the boundaries of social and content creation. We have 150+ of the best GIF artists on the planet. We love making content with them, and we’ve seen how much brands’ audiences love that content, too. It’s a great way to pour more fun onto anything. We’re also keen to do more live events where we live-GIF what’s happening as it happens. We got to do that with Dick Clark Productions for New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, and it was incredible. Our goal is to keep pushing the boundaries of GIFs and work with partners that have an appetite for doing interesting things in tech.

Why do you think GIFs resonate so much with people, especially Millennials?

I think it’s because the devices we use to communicate are evolving. At one point in time we talked on the phone and would talk about how we felt. Then we started to text and would write things like “happy.” But then we shortened it to icons, such as :), which eventually changed to symbols, like J.

As attention spans shorten, media platforms fragment, devices proliferate and channels multiply, the tools that allow us to convey not just one emotion or thought, but many at once, will trump all others. The GIF does just that. And that’s a big part of why it’s coming into its prime right about now. All the conditions are ripe for a medium of communication that is not only the most efficient, but also the most effective.

What has surprised you most in building Giphy – either about your community or culture in general?

Well, it’s humbling, really, that despite the age of the GIF file-type, there’s actually a thriving, growing community of young and enthusiastic GIFers, who are not only extremely supportive but also incredibly talented. That, and the web remains simply ravenous for GIFs of all kinds.

We’ve really tapped into something amazing, and it puts a smile on our faces every day. I mean, hell, we get to help people discover new cat GIFs on a daily basis – and if you work on the interwebz, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Some have said that the rise of the GIF signifies “a full-fledged Internet culture transformation.” What’s Giphy’s ideal place in this movement, both today and tomorrow?

Our goal and what we strive for is to be at the center of this movement today. And I think we’re on our way to solidifying that spot. We’re the largest GIF search engine in the known galaxy (notice the hard “g”) and we’ve got millions and millions of GIFs for anyone to use.

Moving forward, we intend to work with everyone across the web to help be a driving force in defining the directions and forms this movement takes. Once more, I think we’re off to a strong start since we’ve managed to get GIFs onto Twitter and Facebook– which was once impossible– and continue to push the boundaries of where GIFs can play, how they’re created and how they’re consumed.

Needless to say, this is going to be a lot of fun for everyone. And we’re excited to be a part of it.