The Power of Animation for Storytelling

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“Storytelling is the most powerful form of communication ever invented. Through stories we learn, entertain and communicate with each other.”

Hegarty on Creativity: There Are No Rules

With the volume of information available, it’s smart to trust an authoritative channel or group of experts who know what they are talking about. As an insight professional or marketer, the volume of information to analyse is one problem to tackle, winning the right people’s attention to take action is another.

It can feel impossible to be original and much safer to trust the tried and tested forms of communication, especially when budgets are restrictive and time is tight. And where there is data, there is always a room full of data crunchers and research wizards trying to make sense of it all, and often visually illustrating this has proven to improve information retention…

Reason we love animation

Animation is ideal for illustrating quantitative data and qualitative research because it can:

1. Simplify abstract or complex information

Animation can make even the most complex statistical concept easy to grasp. Would you rather read a long-form survey containing stats like: “Only 5% of European users refuse cookies used for personalised advertising” or, watch a 30-second video explaining the perils of NOT rejecting cookies? After all, many of us are visual learners so for training purposes, why not make it easier for people to analyse and absorb dry or boring information.

2. Educate a hard-to-reach audience

Sometimes you have to be radical to get people’s attention, the most valuable commodity of all these days. Being a good communicator is the difference between winning and losing hearts and minds. The use of sound design can also significantly lift the quality. Keeping it simple can be just as effective. You don’t always need music, for example, British Philosopher Alain de Botton’s ‘The School of Life’ YouTube videos simply use a clean voice over.

3. Exist and be owned in perpetuity as part of a branded toolkit 

This benefit is majorly undervalued. Animating the branded toolkit can bring life, personality to the identity and be shared/adapted for global teams to retain consistency. One of the biggest problems we see is a miscellany of totally bombastic branding, (which individual markets have established independently) only serving to dilute your brand image which companies invest huge sums of money in. Any creative decision needs careful thought, but think of the potential to breathe a playful new layer into otherwise static brand guidelines.

Whilst animation is not appropriate for all corporate cultures we believe animation can elevate and reinvigorate brand values.

When to use animation

We understand there’s a lack of knowledge when it comes to this extraordinary format, and often it can be unclear where we should be leveraging it. Here are five examples of where it works:

1. Training purposes or staff induction programmes:

  • Educating personnel on what to do in specific situations, or explaining complex business models and markets.

2. Insights and research reports:

  • Illustrating passionate customer segment information/sentiment, or lifeless data.

3. eLearning: 

  • Signposting key information with key, visual components for an audience, even where English isn’t a first language.

4. Content marketing:

  • Fracturing the hero creative across the entire marketing channel matrix (digital and even print), optimised for consumption on each platform.

5. Engaging a challenging audience:

  • Animation can be more psychologically interesting. Original filming has its place, it is rooted in authenticity and human experience. It can be more serious in its treatment of the subject matter. Animation is a real crowd pleaser because it’s more flexible in its treatment of reality, and there’s far greater latitude for creativity. Why is this important? It is highly memorable and original.

How long should your animated film be?

Animated videos shorter than 60 seconds have the highest audience retention rate, and to generate engagement it’s often a good idea to do a series. Then you have the opportunity to chapterise specific topics, stories or customer segments. You can either stagger their release on your digital platforms or, integrate them into a presentation to drive home that killer insight or illustrate evidence in a charming way.

Videos 60-120 seconds long have a 57% audience retention rate; but explainer videos longer than 120 seconds only get 47% retention. [Martech, 2020].

Knowing when not to use animation

  • You have the opportunity to film with real people where the story would translate more powerfully with original filming.
  • Your instinct tells you it wouldn’t ‘land well’ with the audience. Just as you wouldn’t serve beans on toast to The Queen, you shouldn’t create a cartoon-based animated series to educate vets on how to remove the left ventricle chamber. Clearly, there are some briefs that translate more naturally than others for the medium. Ask us if we think your idea works here.

Common misconceptions

“It’s too expensive!”

For good reason, clients tend to think of animation as a costly option. This is because, yes, the process of animation can have one or two additional sign-off phases before the animation begins including scripting and storyboarding. This is for designing an original series of, for example, 2D customer segment characters and designing the backgrounds in the environment in which our characters exist/move. This can remain simple, yet stylish and branded and need not be the next ‘Garden of Earthly Delights’. Once these initial drawings or characters in the animated toolkit are signed off, our animation wizards get to work crafting a giant, magical puzzle. Although it can on average take between 5-10 days to concept, illustrate, animate and deliver, there are masterful shortcuts to reduce both cost and time. Often it can actually prove more cost effective than filmed content as it’s easier to reversion / rescript using the same characters time and time again. 

“It’s too complicated and it’ll take too long.”

That depends on who you’re working with, and at Vox Pops we have a team of three motion graphics specialists in-house to layer resources shortening the time it takes to deliver. What’s more, with our Automated Animation service, we create a blueprint animation that can be updated in a matter of hours of us receiving your new data/statistics/quotes you want illustrated to replace outdated information – significantly speeding up the process.

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