Ani-motion: making people ‘feel’ through animation

Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in , | No Comments

We’re not exactly quiet about the benefits of animation here at Drive. Explainer animations, animated advertising, corporate videos and short-form social content are increasingly effective forms of communication, focussed on expressing a message while improving brand awareness, engagement levels and conversion rates. While it may seem obvious to turn to live-action video when producing something that deals with serious human or global issues, animation is increasingly being recognised as a primary form to deliver powerful, emotive messages with many advantages over a live-action production.

While live action certainly has its place, it is crucial that it has flawless execution in order not to end up with something resembling outtakes from the ‘Blair Witch Project’ with a logo at the end. The camera is rolling, the money is flowing, and you’ve got your single moment to side-step mediocre acting, poor lighting, bad sound and a cheesy script – the plague of corporate videos. That’s not to mention the many factors beyond your immediate control like the Great British weather, technical hitches and time-keeping. A poor video can do more harm than good to your brand.

The corporate video has changed in recent years, with animation becoming a much more effective way of reaching a broader audience of potential customers and clients. This is partly due to a largely overlooked advantage to using animation in a business setting – the emotional response. A perfect example of this being the absolutely heartbreaking opening sequence to Disney/Pixar’s ‘Up’. Get your tissues ready.

Research shows that animation is an effective way of eliciting an deep emotional response from people. The brain’s response to images is the release a chemical (oxytocin) that heightens emotions like empathy. Oxytocin improves social connections (making us cry along with Carl from ‘Up’), and even helps us to build trust towards a brand or product, which ultimately can lead to increased consumer brand/relationships. So there’s some science to the art of emotive animation production.

When an animated video contains a well-structured story with expressive characters, its viewers will identify with them. This is something that is not always achievable with live-action production; there’s an anonymity to a character or story that allows the viewer to project themselves into that world. A character isn’t ‘that person’ – they are ‘a person’…and that could be you.

The fantastic video below, outlining 30 years of scientific advances and societal changes concerning HIV and AIDs, is a strong example of this. People are present but not defined as characters to start with, as a hand that could very well be your own reaches out of the shadows to receive a positive diagnosis, and a man whose face is barely visible sits in despair on his bed – the light and shadow conveying the mood. So, by the time a character is revealed and given a face, we’re invested. We could be him.

Even when animated characters are better defined with faces and names, we still invest in them, and we can feel empathy and sympathy towards them. Aardman Animation’s emotive ‘Santa Forgot’ campaign for Alzheimer’s Research UK strikes at the core of this concept, placing the effects of Alzheimers in every home in the country as a ‘powerful reminder that dementia doesn’t discriminate’.

Likewise, Dementia UK’s heartwarming tale praises frontline nurses in the form of a 3-minute animation. ‘Together Again’, shines a light on nursing by through a husband and wife, separated by an ocean – a metaphor for the distance created from loss of memory. The story concludes with them gradually being reunited via sensory recall and memory triggers.

But this emotional response isn’t limited to characters. Animation is a fantastic way to explain subject matter that is too difficult to portray through other production techniques. The ability to realize and play out visual metaphors and similes can make complex and difficult messages easy to understand and digest, and can be highly emotive.

Our award winning animation Together We Can Turn Tides shows, in a striking graphic style, the world’s ocean eco-system as a tumbling house of cards, an oil spill as a memento-mori skull lapping at the horizon, and an hourglass that drips the life blood out of marine mammals. Strong visual images are used to show the impact and urgency of the subject matter in a way that tugs effectively at the heartstrings, and could only be possible through animation. All these elements can be crafted, controlled and paced down to the finest of details, with the ability to tweak and manipulate in a controlled environment at a fraction of the cost of a live-action counterpart.

And that’s another big tick for animation: anything is possible. Want Santa to thaw a frozen elf with a hairdryer like this? Done. Want a rocket to shoot into the stratosphere where your logo appears like this? Done – and without the need for Elon Musk-esque mega-budgets. This versatility of content applies to style and design too, meaning that any animated communication can be in line with your brand identity or perfect for the tone of a particular video (without a prop department or make-up artist in sight!).

Even if a central protagonist can only say one phrase and has no way of expressing themselves, the strength of a story can have you full invested, as seen in Fargo’s ‘MNSKY’ backstory, where a small robot travels the galaxy, as the worlds he visits disintegrate into chaos.

Animation can be much more eye-catching, unique, and attention-grabbing than live action – cutting through the sea of filtered photos and bad memes that make up 99% of the social media sphere. The super–shareable weather warning animations we produced for the Met Office – designed to be not just eye-catching and attention-grabbing, but also highly legible and informative in a short time – have been viewed millions of times in total.

This legibility is yet another advantage: the combination of sound and vision means that a multitude of messages can be conveyed at the same time. The multi-sensory nature of learning gives these messages a greater likelihood of being remembered, especially when this learning is paired with a strong emotional response – great for your brand and an understanding of what it does.

This is unquestionably a way to reinforce your Emotional Marketing and customer response: a world where anything can happen, with a broad reach through various channels, created to invoke a response of care and compassion from the viewer. Whether your brand needs to reach more people in a humorous way, an informative, esoteric or altruistic way, or if you’re a change-maker looking to make the complexities and humanity of your mission known to the world, animation is the go-to tool to make your communication as effective and memorable as possible.

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