Fuelled by GIFs Tumblr sets its sights on major UK advertisers

Tumblr is aiming to follow in the footsteps of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter with an attempt to attract UK brands, and make more money from the site. The five-year-old blogging platform, has signed up We Are Social, Poke, AKQA and Bartle Bogle Hegarty as its first UK agency partners.

The partnership will give them access to Tumblr data and specialist training in a similar manner to Facebook’s Preferred Developer programme. It has signed up 12 agencies globally.

The expansion of Tumblr in the UK comes after a successful US election campaign where the platform was heavily used by the Obama campaign and where its own bloggers covered the election. Tumblr also saw an explosion of animated GIFs as they moved into the mainstream.

Tumblr, which receives 16.8bn page views monthly and hosts 80.5m blogs, does not have a UK operation. The agency tie-ups are intended to help them better use the platform for clients and boost creativity.

Foster’s, Topshop and Pringle of Scotland are among the few UK brands using Tumblr to post content, with many preferring Facebook and Twitter for their social-media advertising and brand building.

US brands have been quicker to use the format, with eBay, Coca-Cola and Disney among those advertising on the site.

Tumblr recently started running paid-for campaigns for brands, having unveiled an ad format for users’ dashboards in May. In June, Adidas became the first brand to use the format, promoting a football blog associated with its sponsorship of Euro 2012.

According to Robin Grant, global managing director of We Are Social, Tumblr allows brands to “create a much more branded experience”.

“Tumblr offers something different to Facebook and Twitter in that its users skew a lot younger than other social networks and their behaviour is very different. They curate more content than they create, giving brands the chance to get very rich content shared widely, assuming they make it appealing enough for their followers,” he said.

Nick Farnhill, founder and partner at Poke, said: “Tumblr is a perfect example of the visual social web and with over 16 billion page views a month, there’s energetic and passionate communities of interests that brands can, sensitively, contribute relevant content to and engage with.”

He added: “It’s a rapid and importantly, ‘rich’ way to keep any audience very much up to date and Tumblr are now offering brands a greater ability to achieve this in more bespoke ways.”

Toby Barnes, product strategy director at AKQA said: “At AKQA we love Tumblr. It’s a great place for us to play, share content, and have fun but as serious platform for our clients it gives us the control, flexibility, and analysis we need to continue to produce award-winning, innovative, creative new work.”

The ascendancy of animated GIFs is one of the factors that is driving Tumblr’s growth.

Earlier this year Tumblr hired Jessica Bennett, a former editor and writer for Newsweek, as its executive editor. In an interview with the Nieman Journalism Lab she spoke about how Tumblr had “live GIFed” the presidential debates:

“It’s been really interesting, because GIFs have existed on Tumblr for some time now, but as Tumblr becomes more mainstream, mainstream news outlets are catching on and realizing that this is actually really fun and can be a really smart way to deliver news and to liveblog. What we did for the elections is we partnered with Livestream and we live GIFed the debates. So we had a team, Tumblr staffers — some of them were people from the community. At Reuters, they were liveblogging the debates; we were live GIFing the debates. We would put all these GIFs out on a site called Gifwich, and then they would be reblogged throughout Tumblr.

“But more to your point about GIFs and news, somebody said after we live GIFed the debate, that GIFs are like the political cartoons of our generation. I thought that was really smart because it’s true. We use the Internet to express how we feel. We use memes to make points. In the past, people were making cartoons for The New Yorker. Now, maybe, they’re making GIFs on Tumblr.

Of course, there are people who will say “can you really have nuance in a GIF?” I don’t think too many GIF makers are taking themselves too seriously. A lot of them are artists. But you can do some really smart stuff by combining actual old fashioned text with a GIF. So we’ve seen a lot of people doing that. People like Ann Friedman, formerly of GOOD Magazine, who has created this whole name for herself by using GIFs to comment on social issues. It’s a kind of fun, interactive way to engage on topics that, yes, are serious, she told Nieman