August 16, 2017
On paper (where it began) animated advertising seems like the perfect tool for the creative mind, allowing you to bring to life any idea you can imagine. This can aptly demonstrate your product, service or offering with a captivating message portrayed with motion and color. There’s also an array of animation styles that go beyond changing the look, allowing for a selection of the tone of advert.
Careful use of animation also made possible some of first and most effective portrayals of personality in brands, helping them to control their own narrative with short, self-contained stories that far outlasted their small run times. More recently, animated adverts have overcome the idea that animation appeals only to children.
The reality of the animated advert, is however, not so perfect. Like all innovations, the reputation of animated commercials was sullied by those using the technology for technology’s sake, instead of using it to further a creative idea. Take website animation – what could be used to inform and guide consumers all too often became an interruption during the consumer journey, hampering their progression to the end goal.
A short history of animation and advertising
While early animation techniques can be found as far back as the 17th century, the dawn of what we consider modern animation occurred in 1906. Despite this, the first animated advert didn’t come about for another eight years. “Matches: An Appeal” was produced in 1914 to ask civilians for donations to go toward matches for overseas troops.
It was decades before animated advertising became cheap enough that it could lose its impractical image. In the 1960s, Nyquil used stop motion animation for an advert that wasn’t entirely dissimilar to its 50-year-old predecessor.
This advert allowed the adult subject of medication to appear cute and relaxing, putting consumers at ease with a product they may otherwise have worried over.
Moving forward to the ’80s, TVs had become commonplace and a wave of children’s broadcasts led to the revelation that advertising could be aimed at younger audiences. Both Um Bongo Juice and the more famous Toys R Us adverts use bright colors and characters along with catchy audio to create engaging and exciting worlds. “A magical place” especially became an icon, launching a slogan and brand that would stay in the mind of consumers for decades.
Animated adverts became the norm throughout the ’90s and 2000s but more recently have again taken an innovative turn as they find themselves used in boardrooms, pitches and company websites to demonstrate the offerings of the creator, as well as setting the tone.
Apple is a perfect example of this — the simplicity of its brand advertising melded perfectly with animation. In 2016 they created a series of five adverts to explain their new health app, with a relaxing tone and easily accessible information.
The peak of animated advertising
There’s a lot of debate in the industry about the peak of animated advertising, but this suggests that it has already peaked. Animated adverts may be more commonplace than they were when they were first created, but this has no effect on their accessibility.
Combined with the reach of social media, faster Internet speeds and lower production costs, we’re living in a golden age of animated ads. Remember that just because something had been around for a century doesn’t mean it can’t still be innovative today – it’s all in how you use it.
Popular at the moment
So finally we come to the present – what forms of animated adverts are still in use today? The rise of CGI has lead not only to new forms of animation, but a resurgence of traditional animation which has gained the status of retro or quaint.
Despite the permanence of animated adverts in TV and film, perhaps the most popular form of animated advertising today is the sharing of gifs on social media. Iconic scenes from cartoons are used by brands to display their personality, accessibility and vision.
Talented social media experts can share these animated clips even when they have minimal relevance to their product or message, instead using the popularity of the clip itself to appeal to consumers at no extra cost.
Animated video for business
A final form of the animated advert is the explainer video. Much like how Nyquil used stop motion in the 60s, this takes a complicated subject and makes it accessible, using simple animations alongside explanations that allow the audience to absorb the information in bite size chunks. This video explaining API is a perfect example.
Animated explainer videos created usually in cooperation with a professional animation studio can be used in meetings to make sure the audience are on the same page, on a website to quickly explain what you do (something that’s incredibly helpful for niche startups) or on video sharing sites where it will find its niche with those that are interested.
So are we fed up with animated adverts? With so many different styles, tones, innovations and uses supported by a rich history, it seems this medium has a way to go before it exhausts itself.
Frankie Caplan is an animator interested in visual marketing and applying animation to business projects. She loves cats, eating pasta and watching Seinfeld.