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The times they are a-changing.

The challenge of advertising a new show is always difficult. Do you appeal to fans or the targeting demographic? Where is your market? Do they hang out on Facebook or Twitter? And, crucially—how do you talk to them? Words, or pictures?

Although GIFs have been around since 1987, they didn’t really explode into the public consciousness til the last few years. The appeal is easy to understand, though. GIFs are moving pictures, some like little videos, some so subtle you don’t even realise they’re moving for a moment. It’s like a small piece of magic; an illusion.

Advertisers are just starting to get in on the game. And a new show based on Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is leading the pack.

Beloved by geeks the world over, the book American Gods was published in June 2001. It’s a joyous doorstopper of a book, filled with memorable characters and incredible plot. The main conflict, though, is between the old and the new–something that the marketing’s sunk its teeth into with the clever use of illusory GIFs.

GIFs as a form of advertising works for American Gods because it’s a nod to the show’s overarching plot, which is about cons and tricks, and also because it’s more interactive than traditional Facebook marketing. Fans get a sense of how the famous coin tricks in the book will work onscreen, a visual sense of the world–and are encouraged to respond to these sneak peeks with their own reaction GIFs.

Fans feel closer to their favourite book, and they’re much more likely to trust and watch an adaptation if the marketing is speaking to them in their own language. The network, Starz, only need to upload one GIF and a slightly mysterious caption for the comments, Likes and shares to start rolling in.

If GIFs are hot now, how will be shows be marketing themselves in ten years?

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