Why GIFs have the Lowest CPM Compared to Other Ad Formats

by Federica Rustico

12 min read
Last Updated: January 05, 2023

Marketers, if you still have any doubts on the effectiveness of GIFs, listen up. Numbers tell it like it is and the reality is that GIF marketing is a true powerhouse when it comes to ROI. I know, how is it possible for GIFs to have a higher CPM than search, digital, social, television, or out-of-home advertising? I’m going to try to be as clear as possible in my explanation of why GIFs have the best cost per thousand impressions (CPM) of any marketing channel. If you’re not yet familiar with why you should incorporate GIF marketing into your strategy, this is going to serve as quite an interesting piece of content for you. 

But before we get into it, let me ask you a rhetorical question. As marketers, what are we paying for, exactly? Customer attention, right? And in order to grab it, you need to create material that is appealing, correct? Then what? You have to advertise the hell out of that campaign, spending thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars optimizing your ads and targeting to hopefully convert the right users. So essentially, you’re spending most of your marketing budget to distribute your content to the right people. This is where GIFs have the edge. In GIF marketing, the distribution model is the primary factor that contributes to GIF's exceptionally low-cost CPM. People are able to share GIFs endlessly within their messaging conversations and on popular social media applications once a GIF has been made publicly available through major GIF search engines such as GIPHY and Tenor. It is not necessary to continue paying for the distribution of advertisements in mediums such as television or billboards, and you will not require the services of a specialist social media manager to make many posts every day on your social channels. You are able to create and post GIFs, get the benefits of evergreen content that customers engage with (and adore), and do it at an extraordinarily low cost per thousand impressions (CPM). Time to jump on the GIF bandwagon, am I right? If this wasn't convincing enough, let me elaborate on all the reasons that contribute in the exceptionally low CPM that comes with GIFs.

Why GIFs have the lowest CPM compared to other ad formats

The low cost to create GIFs

Unexpectedly minimal costs are involved in the production of a GIF that has the potential to garner tens of thousands, or possibly hundreds of millions, of impressions. Because GIFs may be made using pre-existing video content, the creation of these animated images typically does not incur any costs for the user. The same video footage can be uploaded to a large GIF platform, relevant keywords may be applied to the GIF, and the company can immediately begin racking up thousands of brand impressions by leveraging their existing advertising campaigns and repurposing the video content into GIF format. The only expense was the time it took to make the GIF and post it, which was only a few hours. Plus, to get started, you can even use free online GIF makers to create your GIFs!

Sure, creating superior customized GIFs can incur more costs, which should be taken into consideration. For instance, the cost of production connected with employing a GIF artist or animation specialist to generate a custom GIF can range anywhere from $100 to $1,000 per GIF. This cost is associated with the creative process. You might also invest further resources in GIF engine optimization. This means that you'll have to spend time conducting keyword research in order to determine which keyword you should attribute to your GIFs and which keywords present a possibility for your GIF to increase its visibility and usage. However, when compared to the expenditures of utilizing other marketing channels, the costs associated with the production and deployment of GIFs are considered peanuts. Because users themselves are responsible for the distribution and sharing of GIFs, you won't need to allocate any of your budget to distribution or to the purchase of media. If you're a huge company, you many want to hire an in-house GIF artist or animator to create your branded GIF collections.

On the other hand, you are free to spend money on purchasing media. You can put your material immediately at the top of search results by purchasing promoted placement for your GIFs on major GIF networks. This requires you to have a budget high enough to cover the cost of the purchase. These types of sponsored ads are typically expensive, and depending on the GIF, keyword, and platform that you select, the placement might set you back more than six figures for just a few days' worth of advertising. You will, however, get your money's value in terms of brand impressions and consumer engagement thanks to the other 7 billion GIFs that are distributed every single day.

GIFs Are Evergreen

GIFs are wonderful forms of material since they can always be used. When you invest in the production of high-quality animated GIFs for your company, you generate evergreen content—that is, content that consumers continue to use and see—much in the same way that a piece of content that ranks highly in Google search results does. A branded GIF that ranks for keywords related to your brand will continue to generate impressions over time, just like a webpage that ranks highly in search results continues to generate relevant traffic over time. This will happen even if you do not make any additional efforts or spend any additional money on advertising. Once you get the hang of it, I'm sure you're going to start incorporating an always-on GIF marketing strategy too, in order to allow your business to ride trends on the go. But that's a story for another time.

Why GIFs have the lowest CPM compared to other ad formats

They are multi-platform use

Remember how everyone keeps saying that you have to produce different types of content in terms of size, adaptability etc for each marketing platform? Translated, that means more time to create these contents. Which simply means more money to do so. The beauty of GIFs is that they can be utilized across a variety of social networks, including the most popular ones like Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and Twitter, this means that a brand may use them across all of these sites as appropriate. One format to rule them all! GIFs continue to be popular across all social networks, despite the fact that users behave differently on each one. Obviously it is not required that you share the same content across all of your platforms; but it's good to know that if you want you can do so.

Numbers tell it like it is

According to Statista’s Social media ads CPM worldwide 2021, advertisers paid a cost per thousand impressions (CPM) of $7.19 for Facebook. This number was slightly higher on Instagram, with a CPM of $7.91. At $6.46, Twitter had the lowest CPM of all the platforms. 

Why GIFs have the lowest CPM compared to other ad formats

The median cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for Google Ads Search was $38.40, and the median CPM for Google Ads Display was $2.80. The median cost per mille on YouTube was $9.68. In 2018, the cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for out-of-home advertising, which has been making a comeback in terms of the growth of channel advertising spending, was $5.22 on average. When it comes to television advertising, the average cost per thousand impressions (CPM) for purchasers of 30-second advertisements was $31.97 for broadcast networks and $17.49 for cable networks.

These figures show the amount of money spent on advertising that was allocated for media buying. The major GIF platforms do, in fact, provide buying and selling of media through their own platforms. However, these technologies are not currently publicly available, thus the average marketer does not have access to this privilege (or the CPM data that surrounds it).

GIFs, on the other hand, enable firms to begin amassing thousands of impressions naturally and without the expenditure of any money on advertisements. Although social media platforms like Facebook and search engines like Google are capable of achieving comparable results with organic content, the process takes some time. If you want to create a social following that brings in thousands of impressions per post on Facebook or Instagram, you will need to put in a large amount of effort and utilize a lot of resources. Your domain authority will need to be built up over time on Google, and you will need to spend on the creation of content that Google considers to be worthy of appearing on the first page of search results.

With GIFs, anyone can get started with just a few GIFs and target keywords and begin bringing in quality impressions almost instantly. This is made possible by the fact that GIFs are small and easily shareable. This is because GIFs lend themselves well to being distributed and shared. People are the ones that share GIFs, which means that when you get a view on your GIF, it is frequently the result of someone else sharing it with a friend. GIFs, on the other hand, are utilized often by consumers, in contrast to Instagram posts and blog posts, which are typically just viewed once and then discarded without further consideration. A lot of people even have favorite GIFs that they send back and forth in the course of their messaging conversations or that they use repeatedly in their social media stories.

The use of GIFs as a conduit for marketing is just getting off the ground. There are still a lot of well-known companies and some of the largest advertisers in the world that aren't investing in GIFs. There are a number of different explanations as to why this is not taking place. There are some people who don't understand the potential of the channel, but there are also many brands that do recognize the value but are unable to invest in the channel because there aren't any analytics to illustrate how well GIF marketing campaigns are performing or what their return on investment is. This situation is rapidly evolving, however, as GIF platforms, such as Gifyard, are investing in the development of tools that will assist marketers in determining how well their GIFs are performing. The GIF space isn't as congested as Instagram or Google search results since there isn't enough performance data available at the moment, and as a result, brands aren't investing in GIFs. There is still room for brands to make big investments in the market and dominate terms that are pertinent to both their industry and their brand. Akin to brands that reaped the benefits of investing early in social media, the current state of GIFs has created an opportunity for brands to be early adopters in the space and enjoy the benefits for years to come. This opportunity is similar to the benefits that brands reaped when they invested early in social media.

The importance of a GIF's impression value

When compared to other marketing platforms, GIFs have a much more useful impression, which is important because performance and return on investment are both measured by impressions. In contrast to an impression made in a newsfeed or on the page of search engine results, which can be quickly scanned or ignored, a GIF impression is made when a user deliberately looks for a GIF with the intention of sending it to another person with whom they are speaking.

A user will typically look for a GIF to answer a recent message when they are engaged in a routine messaging conversation. This customer is looking for a pertinent GIF to utilize as a response to the chat, and they are actively searching for one. The person who receives the GIF watches it (sometimes many times over and over again), attempts to contextualize it, and then responds to the GIF, frequently with another GIF.

If this GIF contains branded content, then both users are helping to contextualize the impression and message that the brand conveys. If consumers discover that a GIF they are using is branded content, they will most likely have a favorable view about the brand. This is because the brand has provided them with value by enhancing their conversation and strengthening their relationship with the people they message. If consumers don't realize that they are sharing branded content and instead believe that they are sending content that is amusing and pertinent to the conversation, then at the very least, they are having a pleasant experience with the brand on a subconscious level. In either case, the consumer's perception of the brand has improved, regardless of whether or not they are aware of this improvement.

Why GIFs have the lowest CPM compared to other ad formats

To summarize, the use of GIFs in messaging allows two customers (or a group of customers) to engage with the company for an extended amount of time, contextualize the brand's material, and evaluate how relevant it is to their discussion. This sequence creates an impression that is extremely useful and further engages the audience with the brand.


According to the findings of a recent study conducted by IPG Media Labs, 29% of TV ad deliveries were not "viewable," which means that no one was present in the room for at least two seconds when the TV commercial was being broadcast. Even worse was the state of digital video content, with 31% of it being deemed "unviewable" due to poor placements. This leads to the creation of false positives regarding the actual number of impressions that video material is bringing in. It has been found that just 30% of the video content (both digital and TV) that is delivered is actually seen by anyone. This is the effect of advertisements being delivered to screens that no one is in front of, as well as appearing in news feeds and on websites that customers scroll immediately through or can't see.

This issue is not encountered while using GIFs. GIFs have exceptionally high viewability because users actively seek for them and choose to share them to one another. This contributes to the popularity of GIFs. They are not supplied directly into messaging discussions by marketers but rather by friends while they are having a conversation about a topic related to the advertisement. Because it is often provided in the context of a conversation between friends rather than as a dictation from advertising, a GIF anticipates a reaction, in contrast to video content that is designed to promote something straight to a customer and is typically ignored by that consumer.

Wrapping up

In spite of the fact that GIFs have been available for more than 30 years, it has only been within the past few years that marketers have started to take GIFs seriously as a channel to engage customers. Since GIF marketing is still in its infancy, many of the most successful companies in the world have not yet started to take animated GIFs seriously. It's like being in the first days of Instagram. This provides brands with the opportunity to be early adopters and take ownership of their branded as well as industry-related keywords. This is especially beneficial for brands that are lesser players or came to the social media boom later. It should go without saying that every company should put some resources into the production of GIFs in order to keep their customers interested. At this moment, GIFs offer the best cost per thousand impressions (CPM) value in marketing.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it good to have a low CPM?

CPM is a crucial measure to track, and you want it to be as low as it can go in order to assure a strong return on investment (ROI). CPM is an abbreviation that stands for cost per thousand impressions.

What are the factors affecting CPM?

- Supply and demand
- Seasonality
- Advertising medium
- Geography and audience size
- Objective of the campaign
- Resources taken to create campaign material