Why animation beats live-action at reaching a diverse audience
Whether it comes down to its adaptability, accessibility, or affordability, Ricardo Roberts, EP of inclusive motion design studio BIEN, explains how a design-focussed approach to advertising could help brands connect to an increasingly diverse, worldwide audience more effectively than live-action production.
It’s 2023, and marketing departments are asking themselves, “What’s the best way to connect with and influence diverse global audiences?”
After some brainstorming, the question inevitably evolves: "If we’re creating video content or a commercial, should I shoot live-action or create a motion design asset?”
The answer to this question depends on many variables, such as budget, target audience, and creative and media strategy. Ultimately, marketing teams and agencies will have to decide for themselves what is best at any given time.
With the proper planning, a motion design or animation approach removes much of the cost and complexity and can be infinitely customised.
I have a great appreciation for live-action, as it has proven to be an effective method of engaging with people. However, some strong reasons exist to consider a design, illustration, and animation approach instead.
To jump right into it, I’ve compiled five reasons why a motion design approach can be more effective at reaching a diverse, global audience:
Motion design content is infinitely flexible and scalable. You can create one asset, and it’s easy to localise any supers, captions, or other on-screen information. We’ve created campaigns in English that have been translated into over 25 languages. If budget is a concern, you can limit the changes to captions and on-screen text.
It's important to use visuals that are specific to a particular culture or location. This helps to create a connection with the audience and make them feel like the content is meant for them.
However, suppose you have the budget and really want to customise and connect with the audience. In that case, you should customise the characters, scenes, and any voice-over/dialogue to be representative of the general audience and region.
Animation can be tailored to reflect specific interests and preferences of different demographics, increasing engagement. For example, if a commercial shows a fruit vendor in Japan, you’d want to show fruit and character traits easily identifiable by a Japanese audience. But if the commercial will air in Vietnam, you could switch out fruits and other regional and cultural details.
Motion design is the obvious choice when you want to get into the details and show people how things work.
A motion graphics team can quickly do these things as long as they know your needs before starting the project. Preproduction, as always, is crucial here. Sometimes, it's important to use visuals that are specific to a particular culture or location. This helps to create a connection with the audience and make them feel like the content is meant for them.
On the other hand, there may be times when it's better to use more abstract visuals that are not tied to a specific location. This can help to make the content more universal and relatable to a wider audience.
Complex concepts, simplified
One of the best use cases of motion design and animation is visualising complex data. Explaining complex technology, software, or products via live action alone can be difficult. Motion design is the obvious choice when you want to get into the details and show people how things work. These design-first segments can be composited on top of live-action footage, rendered entirely in 3D, or achieved using 2D infographic design styles.
If you’re considering doing a character animation piece, developing an inclusive cast is very practical. The possibilities are limitless. At BIEN, we encourage clients to consider implementing a broad spectrum of diversity traits because, as we always tell clients—diversity is much more than a drop of colour.
Consider incorporating body positivity, people with disabilities, and other ways the full spectrum of humanity can be represented.
For example, many studios/illustrators will create one base character and swap out the skin colours. We reject that notion and suggest clients demand a more robust approach. Think about facial structure: people from various parts of the globe have different cheekbones, hair types, and nose types (to name a few).
Consider incorporating body positivity, people with disabilities, and other ways the full spectrum of humanity can be represented. It’s essential to understand the audience and do your research. In 2017, we developed a methodology called Inclusive Motion Design that guides us from script to screen.
To summarise our approach in a few words, you must “Design with, not for.” This means it’s crucial to have members of the target audience on the team creating the work, preferably at the leadership level.
This is self-explanatory. Shooting in multiple locations around the globe is expensive and complicated. Permitting in the US, London, Vancouver, and Hong Kong? No thanks.
Design and animation are universally beloved, transcending backgrounds and cultures to become a powerful tool in every brand's marketing toolkit.
However, with the proper planning, a motion design or animation approach removes much of the cost and complexity and can be infinitely customised. Additionally, it’s easy to create for different aspect ratios. 16 x 9 for broadcast and YouTube, 1 x 1, 9 x 16 for social media platforms. Versioning is also unlimited. Try different CTAs, copy, endings, beginnings… you get the picture. Not to mention, you don’t have to worry about talent fees.
So, there you have it. Design and animation are universally beloved, transcending backgrounds and cultures to become a powerful tool in every brand's marketing toolkit. In today's global economy, brands that neglect animated content are missing out on a valuable opportunity.
In today's global economy, brands that neglect animated content are missing out on a valuable opportunity.
In some cases, character animation has been shown to increase brand lift and conversion rates more effectively than live-action assets. As a marketer, the choice of when and how to incorporate animation into your marketing strategy is yours. However, recognising the immense value of animation and integrating it into your approach is vital for success.