Uniqlo Wants to Give You a GIF

Affordable and cool Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo wants you to give the gift of GIF this holiday season.

With the help of agency Razorfish, Uniqlo has launched a sweepstakes called GIF Box that gives people who enter their email address a chance to win a $500 gift card. But to make the experience fun for everyone, even if you aren’t the winner of the $500, you get neat custom Uniqlo GIF and a coupon for $5 off any purchase over $50.

John Antoniello, creative director at Razorfish, took time to answer some questions about the campaign and the universal appeal of GIFs.

Where did the idea for the GIF Box come from? 
With the holidays around the corner, it seemed like a smart idea to create an idea around giving a free gift to everyone who submitted their email address. And, really, a GIF is the ultimate Internet gift! The animated GIF format is a perfect medium for Uniqlo’s quirky, fun, and Web-savvy brand. We packaged every GIF with a $5-Off coupon to make sure that, no matter what GIF you uncovered, you’ve got  something fun to share, as well as something useful for the holiday season.

Why do you think it is that GIFs are all of a sudden so popular again? What is it about Web artifacts that are so appealing to people?
GIFs have been making people LOL on the internet for decades, but they’re certainly having a moment right now. I think it’s partly because they’re amazingly democratic. From fancy Photoshop experts to MS Paint enthusiasts to app-equipped smartphone users, anyone who can use a computer can make one. So, it has become a very concise and portable way of sharing an idea online. I also think there’s a certain Web nostalgia that we can all relate to. The early days of the Internet were not really that long ago, but technology has moved so rapidly that references to things that were fresh and cool just three years ago are already ripe for an ironic punchline today. Halfway through the production of this project, we also heard that “GIF” had become Oxford Dictionary’s “2012 Word Of The Year.” That’s when we really knew we were onto something.

How did you find these so-called “GIF rockstars” to make the Uniqlo GIFs? What qualifies them as some of the top GIF artists?
The qualifications for determining a GIF rockstar is not an exact science. People don’t graduate with a degree in GIF art, and there is certainly no shortage of boring GIFs on the Web. Many of the chosen artists are people I follow on Tumblr and Twitter, and others were found by looking through entries into animated GIF festivals. It truly has become a legitimate, worldwide movement. Artists and designers from all over are applying their unique aesthetic to the GIF medium and producing work that is really interesting. Alan Butler, for example, is a multi-disciplinary gallery artist in Ireland who also works in sculpture, painting, and video to express complex ideas. And Yuriy Mironoff is a young Ukrainian illustrator who brings his illustrations to life in a beautiful way that could only work as a GIF.

What, if any, guidelines did you give the artists for what kind of GIFs to create? 
For GIF Box, I was mainly looking for GIF artists who shared common values with the Uniqlo brand: a sense of innovation, optimism, and of course a hearty dose of irreverence. They were told to keep it happy, to avoid using imagery of other brands, and to incorporate the Uniqlo logo somewhere into the GIF. They were also encouraged to use Uniqlo products and photography as inspiration, but were in no way required to. Aside from that, I kept their brief fairly open-ended, as I wanted their final work to be something that represented their own artist vision, as opposed to something that felt too ‘advertisey’ or heavy-handed. As a brand, Uniqlo prides themselves on respecting their customers, and I think that people can sniff out when something feels insincere. If it’s honest and entertaining, people will respect it more, and Uniqlo was incredibly excited and generous in letting the artists remix their content for the sake of entertainment and fun.

What makes a good GIF?
My general rule of thumb is an old-fashioned LOL. If I’m not giggling within three seconds, I’ve already moved on. Throwing in a unicorn never hurts, either.