Fast-food companies like Wendy's are watching when you're hungry and using a new tactic to get your money

WendysgifTenorWendy’s has created Gifs as ads
  • Marketers are looking to create GIFs that people will use to express themselves within social media communications.
  • The GIF company Tenor says it has data that brands like Wendy’s and Dunkin Doughnuts can use to create ads tied to specific emotions.
  • Advertisers only pay Tenor when people share these branded GIFs.


Wendy’s knows you get hungry. And sometimes you want to tell your friends just how hungry you are, and that it’s time to grab lunch.

Wendy’s doesn’t want to just advertise to you at that moment. It wants to be the way you express all that.

The company has partnered with the digital startup Tenor to produce a series of branded GIFs that people can use to tell all their buddies that they’re starving. And just maybe it’s time to grab some Chicken Tenders.  

Brands have used visual forms of social communications like GIFs and emojis for a while. But in the case of the Wendy’s campaign that launched this week, the fast food chain is trying to tap into Tenor’s unique data on how and when people use GIFs.

Tenor is the number 2 GIF app in the Apple app store behind Giphy, and it’s tools are integrated on Facebook, WhatsApp, Apple’s iMessage, Twitter and lots of other social communication outlets. Earlier this year, it rolled out an i
nsights tool designed to help marketers view data on how people are engaging with GIFs in real time, and help them create and target ads using that data.

It turns out people don’t typically search for branded GIFs, or specific images like hamburgers or chicken tenders. But they search for emotions, feelings and other things they want express: like “happy,” “excited” and “hungry,” Tenor says.

Unnamed 3TenorTenor tracks the time of day when people search for various gifs

Thus, the hope is that Wendy’s can weave itself into people’s daily communications when the need to express urgent hunger spikes.

“We’re trying not to make this a heavy-handed, buy-our-brand kind of ad,” Jimmy Bennett, head of media at Wendy’s, said. “We want to allow consumers to lead and find value in these ads, while aligning ourselves with emotions.”

Tenor’s only been in the ad business since early this year. Jason Krebs, Tenor chief business officer, said that the company doesn’t pay to promote branded GIFs, and Tenor only makes money when consumers actually use them (sort of a cost-per-emotion-share model).

“If you think about it, Google has search intent, Facebook knows your interests, and we’ve got emotional search,” said said Krebs, who noted that Tenor users conduct 300 million GIF searches a day on various platforms. “You’re never going to send an image unless it perfectly communicates what you want.”

Whether GIFs make people fall in love with brands and take action remains to be seen. But so far, people are sharing marketer-paid GIFs. For example, on New Year’s Eve, a Domino’s GIF created by Tenor as part of a pilot program generated 10.4 million views. Then in July, a campaign for the upcoming Warner Bros. movie “Justice League,” generated 95 million views.

And similarly to Wendy’s, brands like Dunkin Doughnuts are using GIFs to help people say “good morning” and also celebrate Halloween. 

Besides creating social culture that might go viral, the larger hope for marketers like Wendy’s is that branded GIFs can provide better, more inspiring digital ads, that influence people more like TV ads (in that they make people want and feel something rather than just trying get people to click), said Bennett.

Better digital ads has been a glaring industry need for a while.

“You do get painted into a corner with banner ads,” said Bennett. “For so long with our digital ads we’ve started with TV commercials, and everything gravitates from that. The hope with GIF ads is that this can become a foundation for our creative that’s so concise. That’s entirely what we’re trying to achieve.”

“Has anyone ever shared a banner?” said Krebs.

Wendys GIF from Wendys GIFs

Wendys GIF from Wendys GIFs

Box Of Doughnuts GIF from Dunkindonuts GIFs

Shall We? GIF from Justiceleague GIFs

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.