Brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis made their first big splash with a political satire video that depicted Republican President George W. Bush and his 2004 Democratic challenger, John Kerry, attacking one another in a parody of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”
The video went “viral” in the days before anyone had coined the term. It attracted 80 million views online and inspired the late “ABC World News” anchor Peter Jennings to dub them People of the Year.
So, you might ask: What have the boys from Brooklyn done for me lately?
After dabbling in familiar Hollywood pursuits — creating movie trailers that screened at Sundance Film Festival, producing sketch comedy shorts with “Blues Brothers” director John Landis and collaborating on music videos with Weird Al Yankovic — they decided to try something different: Making money.
“We had a problem,” said Gregg Spiridellis, JibJab Media’s chief executive and co-founder. “Our business model was terrible. We would attract 10 million views and $20,000 in revenue.”
JibJab has been quietly working to build a sustainable business ever since.
The team first applied its satiric skills to personalized eCards and videos, which allow people to insert themselves (well, photographs of their faces) into humorous birthday cards, holiday greetings and congratulatory notes, as well as into animated dance videos set to such popular songs as Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”
More than 100 million users visit JibJab annually, and the number of people sending virtual greeting cards and videos is up 65 percent from a year ago, Spiridellis said. The eCards business makes money through subscriptions.
With a few notable exceptions — birthdays, Mother’s Day, anniversaries and the like — eCards are a surprisingly seasonal business.
“It’s like the greeting card business — it’s a fourth-quarter business,” said Spiridellis as he walked through a production facility where one employee can be found shaping a tabletop holiday tableau of tiny felt Christmas trees. “Halloween and Christmas — we call it the harvest. We’re working all year toward September 30th.”
JibJab Media has been widening its entertainment focus beyond animated greetings and the year-in-review videos that it produces for marketing purposes. Its child-focused StoryBots applications for smartphones and tablets allow parents to create personalized story books and videos featuring images of their children.
Last month, JibJab acquired Make Believe Labs and its Hello Santa service, which allows families to place live video calls with Santa Claus. The service (which costs $25 a call) not only affords a new entertainment product, it’s also an opportunity for the digital media company to introduce parents of small children to StoryBots.
As the company observes its 15th anniversary today at its Venice, Calif., headquarters, JibJab launches its latest business: Animated messages. Spiridellis said he hopes to capitalize on the surging popularity of messaging through an app that allows users to send animated GIFs and stickers that can be personalized with the addition of a selfie.
“We feel we can bring our production skills and capabilities to give people ways to be funny in their communications,” Spiridellis said.
To succeed, JibJab will have to displace the reigning champ of expressive messaging: Emoji.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.