What Marketers Should Know Before Creating Memes, GIFs and Short-Form Content

Finding metrics that matter to brands isn't easy

Headshot of Sami Main

The concept of short-form content or ads is not a new one. However, it’s been difficult to define what that looks like or how to measure its success.

During a panel at Advertising Week on Wednesday titled “Popcorn & a Movie: Snackable Entertainment,” industry experts debated what constitutes short-form and what publishers or agencies should focus their attentions on.

Mike Mikho, CMO of Cycle Media, floated the idea that seven-minute episodes on the new Facebook Watch platform are considered short form because viewers can consume it quickly and easily. He added that publishers should be “cognizant of the user experience” when designing this type of content, which can take many forms.

On the other hand, Jason Krebs, chief business officer of Tenor, a global GIF keyboard, noted that content specifically made by YouTube creators used to be considered short form because it took less time and money to produce.

These days, GIFs are considered to be short form. Looping videos on Instagram, called Boomerangs, also fall into that category.

These differences in classifications also lead to similar discrepancies in measurement abilities. Content creators can measure shares and engagement depending on the platform, but adding in layers of metrics that matter more to brands is complex.

“You have to consider the quality of engagement over the quantity sometimes,” said John Matejczyk, CEO and CCO of Muh-tay-zik Hof-fer. “Sure, your engagement wasn’t high, but maybe the quality of the conversation around a piece of film was deep, rich and meaningful. The human world is more impressive than cheap taps.”

A post shared by Sprint (@sprint) on

Short-form content, the panel agreed, should be additive to a user’s experience online without detracting from their support of the brand or business that produced it. With GIF keyboards built into many messaging apps or social media platforms, people can express themselves with an emotion with just a few clicks. Tenor alone serves 4 billion GIF search terms in 2016 and 9 billion searches per month; Giphy serves about 2.5 billion GIFs per day.

“Any brand marketer should want an audience to think of you when telling a friend ‘I’m happy,'” said Krebs. And that means keying in on top GIF searches, like “thumbs up,” “yass,” and “sick,” which trended in New York this week, according to Tenor’s data of 300 million daily searches.

While Facebook Watch’s new hub for video content has episodes ranging from three minutes to 30 minutes, the future of short-form media could be found in GIFs and memes. Brands already capitalize on popular trends online by combining a meme with its own particular messaging, but it can be hard to monetize that for themselves.

“Memes are the most viral and impactful content on the internet,” said Mikho. “Nothing brings people instant joy like memes can. However, most memes come from footage brands don’t own, so its up to marketers to solve for how to attach a sponsorship to them.”

“Plus, every meme eventually ends in GIF form,” said Krebs. “Brands should be putting their content in all the right places, including GIFs.”

@samimain sami.main@adweek.com Sami Main is social editor for Adweek, where she posts Adweek content onto social platforms and looks for creative ways to communicate what's new.