The Top 20 Tumblr Ads of the Year

Buzziest brand promos revealed

Headshot of Christopher Heine

When Tumblr introduced in-stream sponsored posts last spring, skeptics predicted millennials would flee. But the blogging site soared to 47 million visitors in October, up 42 percent since the ads debuted, per comScore.

That's not only good news for Yahoo, which paid $1.1 billion for Tumblr, but also for brands that are turning to the social marketing channel. And per Tumblr’s engagement data, some marketers’ creative are knocking it out of the park. 

“We’ve seen significant momentum from advertisers across all verticals,” remarked Lee Brown, Tumblr’s global head of brand partnerships.

This Top 20 list below ranks Tumblr sponsored posts (desktop and mobile) and Radar ads based on stats such as reblogs and likes (Tumblr uses “notes,” which can be either of the two) for the promos’ first 24 hours on the site. The list below also often refers to social shares the ads have accrued over the course of the year to show how some promos proved to have a long tail.

1. Despicable Me 2

Universal Pictures’ playful GIF of a French maid minion has registered 315,000 notes since July, of which 58 percent have been reblogs. That’s superb viral, folks. “It’s in a visual language that people can rip, remix, while representing how they are expressing themselves on a certain day,” Brown said.

2. Converse

This classic brand’s animated GIF featured five pairs ofdancing sneakers. Brilliantly enlisting popular Tumblr user Matthias Brown, Converse topped 182,000 notes since the end of May. The GIF got shared at the same rate as Despicable Me 2, per Tumblr.  

3. The Great Gatsby

The Warner Bros. remake drew 152,000 notes with its sponsored post. The GIF highlighted Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, toasting a 1920s buddy with a glass of bubbly.

4. Ford

The carmaker didn’t even put its brand on its “#And Is Better” GIF, which featured an irresistible, scribbled message about the Internet and cats.

5. The Home Depot

For Independence Day, the retailer mashed up a cat meme with Star Wars in a “May the Fourth Be With You” ad and picked up 86,000 likes.

6. Hangover Part III

Featuring a looping Zach Galifianakis in a convertible, this road trip franchise probably couldn’t go wrong. Its GIF raked in 76,000 notes despite the flick’s poor critical reception.

7. One Direction

This Sony-led effort got 113,000 likes, as one of the boy band members gets slapped by his mate. It’s an odd ad, but if you have a tween niece, you’ll know such 1-D details matter very little.

8. Comedy Central Roast

Nick Kroll’s James Franco GIF (“if at any point tonight [he] fully opens his eyes, there’ll be six more weeks of summer”) killed, with 75,000 likes.

9. Trolli

This candy brand’s image of a curly, red-headed boy rubbing his head on a dog made of gum sums up Tumblr in a(n) (unusually sweet) nutshell.

10. The Purge

Universal scores again, as this horror movie’s sponsored post put together nine GIFs. Expect many films to copy this mashup tactic in the future.

11. Veterans United

This home loans brand, which specializes in military vets, ran an ad in July that struck a patriotic chord with Tumblr users.

12. Dior

The French luxury firm extended its campaign featuring the universally admired Natalie Portman with a GIF ad of an actress (it’s not clear if it’s actually Portman) doing her lips with one of its red lipsticks. More than 52,000 notes were inspired.


13. AT&T

The telecom’s “#ItsNotComplicated” initiative has practically become a cultural reference point thanks to its consistently funny TV spots featuring a circle of lovable kids. Tumblr users approve, too, sharing a “Moms give the best hugs” GIF ad on Mother’s Day 50,000 times.


14. Jansport

Sometimes the cleverest ideas are truly simple, as this firm utilized animation to show off its signature backpack product in a variety of colors. An image of a female teen holding her bag close to the ground is oddly fun as her Jansport switches from green to purple to aqua blue and so on as the rest of the scene stays the same.


15. Loiter Squad

The Adult Swim show employed its star, Tyler, The Creator, dancing up a storm to create Tumblr buzz. And it worked like a charm, picking up 60,000 notes.

16. About Time

Universal Studios makes another appearance on the chart for its romantic comedy about time travel. With a GIF garnering 49,000 notes, now there’s even more proof that a smiling Rachel McAdams doesn’t exactly send folks running.

17. Hulu

The online videos site promoted the availability of the 34-minute French classic short film “The Red Balloon,” and the GIF proved to have a long tail. While it charts near the bottom of the Top 20 for the ad’s first 24 hours, the promo has over time reeled in 320,000 notes.

18. Sony

A somewhat harrowing GIF of “This Is The End” actor Craig Robinson captured the imagination of Tumblr's legion.

19. Fresh Step

Two cats deejaying. While that statement alone defines the meaning of the idiom “enough said,” it worth knowing it has gotten 52,000 notes.

20. AMC

For “The Walking Dead” premiere, the cable channel utilized the nine-tile GIF approach that was also employed by marketers for “The Purge.”

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.