Monetizing Shiny Object Syndrome

Inevitable that a library of  gifs would emerge as a viable and useful business tool for media professionals. Michael Masterson finds out more about Come Alive Images and we highlight some of their work.

Currently co-founder of Come Alive Images, Joe Panker was the founder of digital agency Jellyfish Advertising and served in marketing and business development roles at Piazza Advertising, Operand, Carat NA and Exceed Communications. He currently lives in Denmark with this wife and two dogs.

© Marcel Meyer

Michael Masterson: When did you first start using moving imagery?

Joe Panker: In my digital agency life, designing Websites. Gifs added energy, telling stories quickly which is critical considering how much time people spend on a site. I got hooked on the art, marketing payout and happy customers.

MM: How did Come Alive Images come to be?

JP: Out of need. It took forever to find the right Gif, track down the artists, get releases and negotiate licensing terms. The idea for a stock Gif agency swished around in my head a lot walking my dogs, but would have died on the vine without Jerry Tavin. We’d bump into each other in Bellport Village, chat sports, politics, dogs, that sort of thing. One day Jerry invited me and my crew into his home: Dogs chasing each other, huge vintage posters, crazy art everywhere, incredible light bulb cluster chandelier hanging over the kitchen table – a really neat place. Jerry shared amazing stories about his life, and told me about the avant-garde stock photo company he founded called NonStock. I shared some Gifs created by Anthony Samaniego, he fell in love, and Come Alive was born.

© Serge Kerbel

MM: What’s your distribution, licensing, and business model?

JP: We make money two ways – licensing images (in .Gif or .Movie file format) and representing the artist we sign to create custom images for brands on assignment. We’re rights managed, and have a network of RM distributors worldwide including Glasshouse Images who were instrumental in getting us off the ground. We wanted to create a brand like NonStock, a place for interesting moving images clients would pay extra for.

MM: How do you recruit new talent for Come Alive?

JP: We recruit artists from the Web we feel are doing, or can do, great things with moving images – photographers, animators, illustrators CGI, Glitch artists all have a place at Come Alive. Artists reach out to us as well. Our forte is introducing new looks, types of moving imagery to the marketplace. Our only rule is keep it short.

© Carl Cosby

MM: What types of moving images do you think resonate with each generation?

JP: Shiny object syndrome applies across the board to all types of Gifs, people just like the movement, but I’ve noticed a disconnect when it comes to 3D stereo wiggle. When I present different types of images in pitch meetings, cinemagraphs jump right out, I think because of the deconstructed sense of reality. Part moving, part still, they are just delicious for the mind. Animation, illustration, time/hyper-lapse, CGI and Glitch also resonate across the board, but the odd duck for sure are 3D stereo wiggle images, and it’s the 20-somethings who absolutely love them, while others don’t quite get it. Fashion embraces 3D, and they were way ahead of the curve with cinemagraphs so we are all-in to pioneer wiggle images for licensing.

MM: Where do you see the market for Gifs going next?

JP: Gifs are becoming more and more a part of our lives. Gif search engines and keyboards enable us to communicate and express emotion in our personal lives that will create a demand for original, licensable and custom images we can use for commercial purposes. We will likely see more stock companies marketing Gifs, software companies enabling artists to create the images easier, and stock companies offering the images as their own thing, an alternative to still photos and long video. In just the past year, we’ve seen a tsunami of still images converted to Gifs hit the Web which will find their way into stock, new cinemagraph applications hit the marketplace to enable more people to create those, and soon even the 3D wiggle process will be democratized.

Gifs, short looping images in .Gif or .Movie file formats are just getting started to take shape in the stock marketplace, but have a future for sure.

© Ashraful Arefin

MM: Lastly, you spend quite a bit of time in Denmark. What was the most surprising thing to you about it?

JP: Hygge. It’s a nice concept, a feeling of cosiness that plugs into many facets of their lives – design, dinner, relationships. People also swim in the ocean, in the middle of winter, naked, like it’s nothing. Rush hour is all about bikes.

© Ali Baia

Michael Masterson has a broad range of experience in marketing, business development, strategic planning, contact negotiations and recruiting in the photography, graphic design and publishing industries. In addition to his long experience at the Workbook and Workbookstock, Masterson owned and was creative director of his own graphic design firm for several years. Masterson has been a speaker or panelist at industry events such as Seybold, PhotoPlus Expo, Visual Connections and the Picture Archive Council of America (PACA) national conference. He is past national president of the American Society of Picture Professionals (ASPP). He currently heads Masterson Consulting, working on projects ranging from business development for creative companies and sourcing talent for them to promoting and marketing industry events as well as providing resume and professional profile services for job-seekers. He can be reached at

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