COVID-19 sparks animation boom

COVID-19 sparks animation boom

When the Australian Government launched the COVID-Safe campaign, real-life actors were not employed to help demonstrate the right way to wash one’s hands or smother a sneeze in the nook of one’s elbow. And rightly so. Social media would have imploded with the irony of, “Were those actors practicing what they preach in the making of this video.” Instead, clever, simple animations were used to communicate the vital messages.

Corporate Australia is following suit. The use of animations by brands to get their point across has increased by 20 per cent since the start of COVID-19. That’s according to Renece Brewster, the CEO and Co-Founder of one of Australia’s largest in-house video production companies, Visual Domain.

In this interview, Renece takes us through the rise of animation, and the wide-ranging benefits of using it to tell stories.

Tell me about the increase in businesses using animation to tell stories
The COVID restrictions meant people were unable to go out and film. We’ve seen an increase of around 20% in people choosing animations to explain really complex things. Animation is a great way to create worlds and situations and explain what they should and could be like. It’s also a really effective way to connect with people when we can’t physically film them.

At the moment, we’re creating about 200 videos per week. These come in all shapes and sizes, from training animations through to helping the healthcare sector communicate new policies, especially when they’re changing so quickly. We’ve just created a series for Victoria Roads and for Public Transport on the new COVID rules and regulations. But then also for retailers to help explain their click and collect policies.

What are the key benefits of using animation over real-life videos?
With animations, you can create situations that you can’t film. You can go back in time and you can come back to the future. We did a video about stamp duty law changes, and we were able to go back to the early 1900s when stamp duty originated.

Animation doesn’t date as easily as real-life videos, and they are certainly easier to update when changes do occur. If a company is working on a big evergreen investment piece, not just a quick update communication, it can be particularly effective. Animations can last a heck of a lot longer than real-life videos.

Is there a secret formula when it comes to creating animations that get real cut-through?
It all depends on the audience and the intention. If it’s to communicate important information to an audience that might not be overly engaged, such as the government ads that are out at the moment, you’ve got about 30 seconds to try and get something really important across. You need to get straight to the point.

But then we’ve created animations for the retail sector about how to get your retail products once you’ve purchased them. These are for people who are settled in, committed, and need this information. So, these videos can go up to three minutes. It really depends on the message you’re delivering and the audience but, without a shadow of a doubt, that first five seconds is everything. If you can’t hook people in the first five seconds, you’ve lost them.

To do this, you need something that will pique someone’s interest, especially on social media. If someone is scrolling you’ve got even less time. Clickbait certainly works. It’s just very important to deliver all of the critical information quickly.

What is your advice to brands who are keen to write their own script for the animation?
  • Let us know the key messages that you want the audience to come out with after watching the animation.
  • Don't waffle. Be direct and sharp. Use the keywords at the start of the sentence, aka the thing that is animatable. 
  • Try and use animatable words: cut, bounce, impact, smooth, flexible, grow, distort.
  • Tell a story and don't repeat yourself. Say it once really well. Every line of text should give new information.
  • Avoid unnecessary characters and movement where you can,
How important is music choice?
Music is really important. It creates a feeling and an emotion that people then associate with that video. You want to make sure it matches the tone. But something I think a lot of people don’t do on animations, and it really sets them apart, is high-quality sound design. Character animations have been so popular lately to show people doing different things. And the difference of nice and subtle sound design, even if it’s just little squeaks of characters and little quirks, it elevates the video and makes it more memorable. I think it's actually not just looking at the music track you choose, but also just thinking about what the sound elements are that you can add to a video to make it memorable. And it does just take the professionalism of a video to another level when you do include some of that.

What’s the current turnaround for an animation?
Pre-COVID our turnaround was five to 10 days and now it’s 3 to 5. The quick turnaround is important for animations, as often animation has been chosen as the method of communication because it’s going to deliver a critical message they need to get out straight away.

What trends do you think we will see in animation in 2021 and beyond?
The offshoring of low-cost animations has resulted in so many of them looking the same. It’s challenging production companies like Visual Domain to elevate our videos and get really clever, quirky and memorable.
A key trend I’ve noticed is brands that previously created one big hero video, then used cut-down version for social media channels, are realising this just isn’t good enough any more. Every piece of content needs to be tailored and targeted to each social channel because the audience is different on every channel.

This has led to many brands choosing their channel of choice and focusing and building on that. The average brand we work with is creating 300 videos a year. It’s a huge volume. In order to be sustainable and to make sure the content is high quality and connecting with the audience online, they're going to have to get a bit more selective about what channel they choose and really owning and knowing their audience on it.

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