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Special Project

Special Project
From the 7th Annual Shorty Awards


Entered in Animated GIFs


To educate viewers, drive tune in, and facilitate online conversation surrounding the 6-part program HOW WE GOT TO NOW WITH STEVEN JOHNSON, PBS created an extensive 20-week social media campaign that leveraged followers across 7 of its social platforms and provided social fodder in the form of video, images and animated GIFs. For the first time ever, in addition to live-tweeting each episode with numerous GIFs, PBS live-GIF'ed each episode on Tumblr. These Tumblr posts essentially recreated the scenes in the program into GIF sets that were timed to publish during the moment they were seen in the live broadcast. The full collection of GIF's used to promote the series was also uploaded to an official PBS Giphy program page to allow for easier social sharing. Also, during GIF production, a custom frame was created in line with the branding of the program and included the PBS logo and program hashtag to allow for easier identification, awareness, and to further encourage discussion online during and after the 6 week broadcast. The live 6-night campaign featured 66 Tumblr posts that shared over 100 GIFs and 66 individual GIFs on Twitter, in addition to facts and infographics. The result on Tumblr was 9 Tumblr Feature Tags, hundreds of new followers and 1000's of notes. Plus, 1000's of retweets and favorites on Twitter.

Strategy and Execution

The overall objective for the live GIF-ing campaign, in promotion of HOW WE GOT TO NOW WITH STEVEN JOHNSON, is to excite and educate the PBS audience, and facilitate a conversation with the online community during and outside of broadcast. This innovative campaign breaks out of the social norm by bringing a deeper interactive element to the live conversation. Rather than following the standard live tweeting practices, the detailed animated GIFs on Tumblr set up entire scenes and told stories about the history of technology and how we got to where we are today.

The animated GIFs' bright, colourful and creative illustrations captured fans attention by standing out from the social clutter. By including interesting facts, meaningful quotes, and full historical and scientific stories, the GIFs provided in-depth educational context. By presenting the full picture in multiple GIFs in a GIF set, we provided comprehensive insight to those watching the program and also those not able to follow along with the live broadcast, but were still interested in the series subject. Furthermore, the majority of GIFs surrounding TV today are fan created and appear after the program/event has occurred, but by providing our viewers with branded GIFs during the live broadcast, we were able to fuel the fan conversation with official PBS-approved content. This not only allowed us to ensure higher quality GIFs to be shared, but gave us the opportunity to provide accurate context with captions, in addition to focusing on scenes that might not have been GIF'ed by viewers otherwise.

Throughout the 6 episode series, the Tumblr posts garnered thousands of notes, 9 coveted "feature tags," and resulted in thousands of new followers. Additionally, those shared via Twitter received thousands of favorites and retweets, and the hashtag #HowWeGotToNowPBS gained approximately 3k mentions.

We believe the judges should select our live-GIFing campaign because the usage of GIFs to present our educational material was entertaining and provided a type of content that not only appeals to a younger and wider demographic, but is shareable, allowing for a larger reach via social media and the internet in general.


Entrant Company / Organization Name

PBS and Interface Media


Entry Credits