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Putting Content in Their Hands

Entertainment brands are beginning to wise up and give young consumers tools to easily create and share clips and GIFs of the shows and movies they love, finally putting content control in their hands. 

As we’ve said before, GIFs are the sweetheart of the internet; an important fixture of communication for young consumers, internet users, and the brands that want to speak their language. Sharing GIFs and clips of shows and movies has become a regular and vital part of online conversation. The reality is Millennials and teens have always felt ownership over the entertainment content that they consume. To them, it is theirs to clip, mix, mash, manipulate, and reorder to their hearts content. But it has taken some time for brands to realize the power of that creativity, and only now are we seeing more content control being handed over to young consumers.

Brands have begun take advantage of GIF creation over the last few years, starting with integrating them into their own marketing campaigns. As New Republic detailed in their GIF history, “[C]orporations have adopted the GIF. HBO started a Tumblr to promote the Season 2 premiere of Girls, and filled it with the kind of frame-grab GIFs that Girls fans were already making on their own. It’s a crowd-sourced GIF Tumblr: Fans make the GIFs, and HBO’s team makes the headline to go along with it…(Copyrights are not exactly a concern for GIF makers.)” That last sentence is key—when it comes to online content, brand ownership means little to nothing. Smart brands have embraced the way that their content has been creatively co-opted. Now some brands are finally giving young consumers even more control, and the tools to take the snippets they want and share them far and wide.

Hulu recently launched an entire site dedicated to giving viewers GIFs of their favorite shows. Appropriately hosted on Tumblr, where GIFs have reigned for years, The Perfect GIF is reminiscent of already popular GIF search engine Giphy: a gallery of GIFs can be scrolled through, and hovering a cursor over any individual tile will show its animation. GIFs can be browsed according to show, action, and very wisely reaction, with subcategories like #OMG, #LOL, #FAIL, #AWKWARD helpfully providing the kinds of animations that young consumers are already looking to use in their online conversations. The gallery currently contains over 1,700 GIFs taken from shows new and old hosted on Hulu, and viewers can share them to Tumblr, Twitter, or Pinterest, email them, or download them to do whatever else they might want. Each is marked with the show name and #hulu, ensuring that every share garners the site a little shoutout.  

While Hulu is giving a smorgasboard of GIFs for viewers to use YouTube is beginning to integrate GIF creation into the site’s functions. While GIF sharing has exploded over the last few years, the ability to actually create these bite-sized bits of content has remained somewhat rarified. Two years ago, some artists and designers were even able to make a living on their GIF-making skills. But more and more tools have been created to allow young consumers to hack the content they love, which they’ve continued to do whether entertainment brands want them to or not. YouTube’s new GIF creation tool will give even more the ability to make the shareable, snackable content they want, without a host of programs or a graphic design degree. The GIF tool is being added quietly and is not yet enabled for all videos, but we predict they will expand the abilities.

Young consumers have begun to share video clips as avidly as GIFs, but again it takes some expertise and effort to actually create snippets of video from favorite shows and entertainment, not to mention the fact that making them is not strictly legal—until now. New app Whipclip is partnering with music labels and TV networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, and VH1 to let fans create their own video clips of content up that they can then share on social media, by email, or via text. An algorithm will pick up on users’ preferences and share promoted clips in the future. The app may mark the first time that young consumers are being handed the tools to edit and share the content they love, and share clips of their favorite entertainment moments without pointing their phones at their TVs and capturing blurry playback. 

It look like brands are beginning to see that giving viewers the tools to play with content is only beneficial to both parties. Every reaction GIF of a show posted in the comment section is free marketing. Hulu, YouTube, and Whipclip are likely just the start of the movement to give young consumers the power to manipulate the content they’ve always felt was theirs for the taking.