Google this week acquired Tenor, a platform for Android, iOS, and desktop, that offers a massive searchable database of GIFs, called “GIF Keyboard,” according to a post on Google’s blog. Deal terms weren’t disclosed, but Tenor will continue to operate independently.
The 4-year-old startup has 50 employees based in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. With roughly 300 million monthly active users (MAU) driving more than 12 billion searches per month, Tenor competes with similar GIF search engines including GIPHY — the first and largest GIF search engine, with 300 million daily active users (DAU) — and Gfycat, with roughly 130 million MAU.
It’s likely that Tenor’s GIF library will be integrated into Google services, in particular search-related services like Google Images. The acquisition could also help Google tap into messaging platforms and apps, as GIF search engines are often built into various mobile messaging platforms for easy accessibility. Social networks have also incorporated GIF search options into their platforms, allowing users to easily find and share the GIF that best expresses a mood or reaction. Tenor’s GIF bot is the most-used chatbot on Facebook Messenger, per Forbes.
Tenor could help Google drive digital advertising through emotion-based search. Tenor has been ramping up its advertising business since late 2017. Over the next 90 days, Tenor plans to roll out its first paid advertising product, which will aim to help advertisers target people with branded GIFs, according to Tenor’s newly hired Chief Business Officer Jason Krebs per The Wall Street Journal. Ninety percent of Tenor searches center on emotion, said Krebs. Tenor’s “Emotional Graph” is a unique feature that maps GIF searches based on emotions people are searching.
Tenor is the first GIF search engine to create an ad platform for GIF searches, with advertisers paying between $100,000 and $500,000 for a sponsored GIF, per a recent profile in Bloomberg Businessweek. Tenor charges advertisers when their sponsored GIFs are shared, instead of when they’re viewed, per Axios, suggesting shares are a more meaningful metric than views. About 70% of US internet users ages 8 to 64 (or 200 million people) know how to send a GIF, of which nearly half say they send at least one per week, according to Magid research.
Magid further estimated that mobile shares of GIFs could generate $1 billion to $2 billion in total ad revenues within two to three years, at a growth rate of 1,000%. Because GIFs are a highly shareable medium that condenses and communicates a large amount of information — especially emotion — for maximum impact, when people share a sponsored GIF, it’s the equivalent of people sharing an ad, a rare and self-reinforcing power for any form of advertising. Further, because they’re silent, GIFs transcend language barriers, so they can have potentially worldwide appeal, as shown by The New York Times’ roundup of the top GIFs across five countries.
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