Does Anyone Know What’s Going On in Giphy’s 90-Second Ad for Its Stickers?

Throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks

Envision a kitchen-sink blitz of 1980s and ’90s television references squeezed through a whimsically batshit, anything-goes sieve, then molded into a trip down a channel-surfing rabbit hole, and you have Giphy’s new advertising campaign.

A 90-second centerpiece spot strings together a series of breakout 6-second bits, and other vignettes, in an effort to promote the media company’s new stickers—that is, its version of the little emoji-like animations people can use in messaging, social media, and now on participating websites.

To that end, the long ad sets the tone by opening on an image of a pug, dressed like a French artiste. The pug is flanked by a set of chattering teeth, and some kind of anthropomorphic wiggling ass. The camera zooms out and pans around a stack of old-school cathode-ray-tube sets while the voiceover teases, “Stick around, we’ll be right back”—like a redux lead-in to a MTV commercial break from the network’s golden years.

Then the channel flips to a QVC-style shopping network, but with Giphy’s cartoon acid-trip aesthetic overlaid. Cue a faux beauty-product infomercial, while the intro to Fine Young Cannibals’ 1988 banger “She Drives Me Crazy” plays in the background. “What’s my secret?” a young woman asks the camera. A mishmash of deranged comics make duck face and do dance aerobics, as floating pixelated 3-D fruit floats in the background, while she blows a kissy-selfie, and then answers, “Shhh-stickers.”

If the irony of using a commercial that’s a minute and half long to to promote miniature animated loops seems like too much, rest assured that’s exactly the sort of head-scratching, meta pop humor that is Giphy’s wheelhouse. And the studio, working with agency Dark Igloo, really packs it in.

“Stick em here, stick em there, stick em everywhere,” squeals a throwback cool kid’s voiceover. A disapproving middle-aged drip drinks coffee, while purple legs with yellow high heels dangle out of the mug. A miniature tracksuit-clad B-boy “Rides the Horse” on the back of a small dog, and Mount Rushmore devolves into a Gumby-mouthed claymation nightmare. “That’s more like it,” declares the young arbiter of taste, popping on-screen from the side in a leather jacket, and flannel, and sunglasses.

That’s just about 20 seconds in, but the message is clear: The olds are not welcome here, unless maybe they’re wanting very badly to feel young. A news anchor deadpans a very serious, very ominous broadcast news story about “gexting. It’s “teens … texting gifs … back and forth,” she says, scandalized. What could follow but the saucily winking “Text Backs” direct message (i.e., private) collection—dial “1-800-Text-Stix—wherein a classic boom box plays a slow jam next to floating eggplant (dick) and peach (butt) emojis.

Then there’s the Mystick sticker pack, with some kind of guru peddling neon-green peace signs. A Bob Ross character paints an iChat with a disembodied finger instead of a brush, and signs it with a detached mouth. A shlocky commercial for an ambulance chaser urges viewers to throw the book at people who text badly. A play on an Iron-Chef style reality cooking show features a hilariously smug judge and googly-eyed food that flexes its biceps and flips the bird. There’s a Sega Genesis and SNES meets Doritos crumbs and Nike Air Force sneakers party. There’s a bad fast-food music video with goofy dancing, and a cheesy kid’s show blending live action with Tron style sci-graphics and a gorilla Wookie knockoff.

In other words, if you’re wondering what the hell is going on, you’re not alone … and the folks at Giphy are probably feeling pretty good about it. Even the credits are delivered in the style of a scrolling-loop TV-style guide, like all humans had to suffer before you could just hit the “info” button on your cable remote and thumb through 600 channels of nothing (or still get pissed off because that always freezes, too).