Google Acquires Tenor

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In its never-ending desire to be at the forefront of all things search, Google has recently acquired GIF platform Tenor for an undisclosed amount and will integrate Tenor’s collection of animated images into its search platform.

Details and Implications:

It’s hard to deny that GIFs are having ‘a moment’ in the world of advertising right now and Google is tapping into the power of GIFs with its purchase of Tenor and the integration of its library of animated images into Google Images and Gboard (Google’s virtual keyboard).

Tenor, best known for its GIF-based search engine, currently has more than 300 million users (and counting) and tops 12 billion searches a month. The image-based platform powers GIF functions in keyboards for a multitude of phones and messenger services including Samsung devices, Facebook Messenger, Apple’s iMessage, Twitter, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Slack, Discord, Kik and now Google’s Gboard.

Tenor fits perfectly into Google’s mission to be the leader in visual search.

“Most people now use Google Images to find more information about a topic, and to help them communicate and express themselves—case in point, we see millions of searches for GIFs every day,” said Google’s director of engineering Cathy Edwards speaking about the acquisition. “We’ve continued to evolve Google Images to meet both of these needs, and today we’re bringing GIFs more closely into the fold by acquiring Tenor, a GIF platform for Android, iOS and desktop.”

GIFs are a simple way to convey thoughts and emotions in a time when attention span is almost non-existent. With the help of Tenor, Google will hope to become the leader in emotion-based search, making it easier for its 3 billion mobile users to quickly find and share GIFs to visually express themselves.

As well as being an emotion-based search engine, Tenor is becoming popular with advertisers that are paying up to $500,000 for the platform to create sponsored GIFs. In an age of ad blockers and where consumers are passively scrolling through sponsored content, GIFs (sponsored or not) are being searched for and shared organically.  Brands and advertisers using Tenor for sponsored GIF content include Dunkin Donuts, Nissan, AT&T, Sprint, KFC and Nestlé.

The partnership with Tenor, will boost Google’s search data and offer marketers new, viral advertising formats and Google’s collaboration will help Tenor find more content, API partners and advertisers.

Google plans to maintain Tenor as a separate brand. 


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But GIFs are worth that and then some, with their short, simple storytelling power. Google’s purchase of Tenor and the integration of GIFs into its search engine and virtual keyboards elevates Google’s offering to consumers who want to use this new way to express themselves and also advertisers, who are looking for organic awareness and new ad formats at a time where attention span is limited. The GIF is a new and powerful form of communication and it’ll be interesting to see how many brands adopt GIFs as part of their marketing efforts and how GIFs will change the industry for visual search. Next up, shoppable and virtual GIFs?

Further Reading:

TechCrunch / Forbes / The Verge / Mashable