• 05.21.12

Imgur Blurs Line Between Memes and Ads with Lipton Brisk/”Scumbag Steve” Hybrid

New ads on image site Imgur use the memes it’s become known for to promote branded messages.

Imgur Blurs Line Between Memes and Ads with Lipton Brisk/”Scumbag Steve” Hybrid

Considering the enviable viral half-life of most internet memes, and the engagement they tend to inspire, it’s only natural to expect advertisers to attempt to harness their power. But those who venture into branded meme territory are best advised to tread lightly–the audience potential for co-opting a beloved photoshopped image is exceeded only by the likelihood of turning that audience’s peals of laughter into snorts of derision.


Created by agency Mekanism, a new ad for Lipton Brisk began running today on Imgur, the image site that’s been ground zero for many a well-traveled meme. It’s a simple ad, using the Scumbag Steve meme as a vessel for the brand. The ad is so simple, in fact, that aside from the word ‘Brisk,’ it doesn’t look like an ad at all. Which is exactly the point.

“This actually arose via some existing relationships we had,” says Brendan Gahan of Mekanism. “Friends over at Thoughtleadr, the social ad platform powering Imgur’s promoted image, connected the dots when Imgur was interested in experimenting with advertising. We took the opportunity to Brisk, because the audience was relevant and they’re proactive about doing cool, new things in social. We all collaborated to create content we felt would be entertaining, and add value to the community.”

The ad is Imgur’s first step in a new Promoted Image ad unit. It will be featured in the site’s image gallery, alongside similar pieces of content. Users will be scrolling through images of the next Sad Keanu or Schrute Facts, and eventually encounter the Brisk version of the Scumbag Steve meme in an elevated profile. The next phase of the ads will require a more curatorial role for Mekanism, though.

“We’ll be experimenting with at least one more. The next one will feature existing content that users on the site have already posted which just happens to have Brisk branding,” Gahan says.

Whether that means we’ll be seeing sponsored GIFs next, we’ll just have to wait and see.

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.