The power of animation

Animation is an important and increasingly affordable option for communicators and influencers. At its heart, good PR and communications is about engaging people with simple narratives or, if you prefer, telling great stories and keeping it simple. Plus, what’s not to like about cartoons.

Good animations can engage with your target audience, drive behaviour change, challenge preconceptions and educate and inform. In our always switched-on and highly visual world, animation can be thumb-stopping, attention-grabbing and shareable. It also offers several advantages over traditional video.

It can give context to difficult, abstract concepts

It allows you to explain difficult or abstract concepts in a way that no video or press release can, no matter how complex or sensitive the subject matter. Animation can show anything ­– from the atomic structure of hydrogen to the scale of the universe – in an engaging and memorable way.

It can be more flexible and creative than video

There are many situations that are too difficult, expensive, dangerous, or just downright impossible to capture with video. That’s where animation can be invaluable, allowing you to stretch time-scales or show large projects with ease. You can make it snow in the middle of summer, don’t have to worry about actors’ schedules, and don’t have to cram everything into the tiny allowance of daylight we get in winter.

The characters are totally under your control

What happens if that person in the background of your lovely new video didn’t sign a release form or the star interviewee is later found to have embezzled the company’s profits and run off to Guatemala? Unlike human ‘stars’, animated characters can be moulded to suit the message/audience, don’t demand a fee for any re-shoots and can be called back at any time for updates and amends. They also rarely embezzle or bring the company into disrepute at a later date…

So, if that sounds good but you’re worried because you’ve never commissioned an animation before? Don’t be. Here’s six starter tips to set you on your way.

1. Get your ‘why’ right
The fundamentals of good animation are the same as with any piece of comms work – focus on your objectives, understand your audience and get your head round your key messages.
As usual, you can save a lot of time, money and heartache further down the line by getting the brief right at the start and making sure the creative team understand your why.

2. Make sure you share your message in a style and tone tailored to your audience
From clean, flat graphics to sketchy, hand-drawn styles, there’s an animation style to suit every audience and budget. Don’t worry about knowing the technical terms – choose something that works for you and, if you’re not sure how to describe your preferred style, use a mood board or examples so your animator knows what you want. Describing visual animation effects linguistically is a challenge – you’ll probably end up using terms like ‘whoosh’ and waving your arms around a lot. This is perfectly normal and only embarrassing if you knock your animator’s coffee over.

3. Re-use your assets to develop your brand identity
The assets (characters, slogans, concepts and style) you create for your animation can be used across different media, allowing you to get more bang for your buck whilst maintaining a consistent and coherent visual identity.

4. Think about future-proofing
Animated content can be updated and amended comparatively easily (especially compared to video), but if you can save yourself some hassle at the start, then build this in. In an ever-changing world, content needs to be kept up-to-date. It’s worth bearing in mind that if you have a voice-over, changes to this will need to be factored in and this may have a knock-on effect with timing in your animation. If a voice-over is a must, make sure your script is final or record several variants at the same time.

5. Understand the process
You don’t just ‘create an animation’. You need buy-in and approvals for a visual style, a storyboard, and a script before you start bringing it to life. Changes are much easier (and cheaper) to do at the early, story-boarding stage before the actual animating is done.

6. Testing testing 1,2,3
If you’re engaging with a sensitive audience group or about a difficult topic, get feedback and input from audience representatives before you go public. A minor change in how something or someone is represented can make a big difference.

This little sample might give you an idea for some styles and approaches that work for you – have fun!

Sarah Bibby
Senior Creative