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Using marketing animation to amplify your communications

Screenshot of a three-brains advert in development in Adobe Animate

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Why read this? : We look at how you can use marketing animation to communicate with customers. Learn when it’s most often used, and how you go about creating it. Read this for ideas on how to use marketing animation to amplify your communications. 

Video-making crops up in many areas of marketing. 

For example, you use videos to drive awareness and consideration in advertising and on social. Showcase products in e-Commerce. And share stories about what you do to keep customers loyal

There are 2 main ways brands create video content.

First, the do-it-yourself approach. For example, those short and shaky social videos which show the “real” side of your brand.

Two cameramen and a sandman posing on a lawn in front of some trees

Or you use professional video-making experts to do it for you. e.g. for big advertising campaigns.

There’s a cost vs quality trade-off between these options. 

DIY videos are cheap to make. But you get what you pay for. They can look amateurish and lack impact. 

Professional videos should look better and have more impact. But, costs soon add up. You need actors, a director, camera and sound operators. Plus a scriptwriter / creative team to develop the idea and an editor to put it all together. Then, there’s the cost of locations, equipment and usage rights. 

Fine for big brands. But smaller brands on a budget might start to hyperventilate at the expense. However, there’s a third option that’s worth considering.

Marketing animation - a balance of quality and cost

You can use marketing animation to create something more professional-looking than a DIY video. And it’s usually cheaper than a film shoot with real people, as long as you don’t make the animation too long or complicated.

Animations work as a series of illustrated frames which run next to each other very fast. Usually at 30 frames per second. (though it can be more).

Each frame has to be created so that when the frames run next to each other in real-time, they give the appearance of movement i.e. animation. 

The better the quality you want for the marketing animation, the longer it’ll take and the more it’ll cost. More frames and more complex illustrations take longer and cost more. Most marketing animation is 6-30 seconds for adverts, and no more than a few minutes for anything else.

It’s often used because it gives you more control and ownership of the assets in your video. There are no actors to manage. No usage or repeat fees. They’re your brand assets, so you can use them as and when you like. Plus, it’s also fairly easy to edit animations if your message or information changes. You just edit the relevant frames rather than having to reshoot new footage. 

However, do note you’ll have to factor in a cost for sound. A voiceover or music, for example. Again, you can do this yourself or hire professionals. You can also find royalty-free music online (e.g. on YouTube’s Studio area) if you just need something simple to play in the background. 

When you might use marketing animation

The marketing comms areas where marketing animation is most commonly used are :-

Advertising campaigns on a budget

When you want a video advertising campaign, but don’t have the budget for filming with a cast and crew, animation is a good way to maximise the budget you do have. 

A full-blown filmed production can easily run to $150k-$250k (or more) per day of filming.

An animated video of the same length would cost far less. You can find freelancers on Fiverr, who’ll create something simple for you for less than $1k.

Or you can even learn the basics of animation and do it yourself. Even if you use your agency and they propose a slicker, more involved animation for your advert, it shouldn’t cost you as much as filming an advert with real people would. 

For example, the 15-second Three-Brains advert above was made in-house and took about 3 days to make. A day for planning and storyboarding, and 2 days to create the visuals and animations and edit it together. The only cost was our time spent making it. More on this later.  

Explainer “how to” videos on your website

Marketing animation is also often used to create video content for websites. In particular, to create videos to explain “how to” do something. Marketing animation can bring subjects to life in a way that text alone can’t. 

For example, our design principles guide talks about the importance of repetition for usability on a website. This visual concept is far easier to explain if you can show it in action.

The short animation above was first created in Keynote as a “build” presentation. Turning it into a video meant we could post it online and let it run on its own without a presenter. This makes it easier to convey the points it makes about repetition.

Attention-grabbing content for PR

Finally, marketing animation is often used alongside newsworthy PR activities. For example, launching a new product or running an event. 

You can animate the details of the “news” so you have more eye-catching online content to use, particularly for social media.

Moving video content captures more attention than text announcements or static images. And attention is usually what you want for news activities. 

Inside a concept hall, lots of confetti flying in air, with audience reaching out their hands towards it

So marketing animation helps you grab this attention without needing to splash out on creating something more expensive.

Doing your own marketing animation

If you’re doing your own marketing animation and haven’t done it before, you’ll need a plan.

Standard presentation software like PowerPoint and Keynote have very basic animation functions e.g. creating a video of a build / reveal of text and images on a page as in this example.

But if your needs go beyond that, you’ll need animation software such as Adobe Animate.

You’ll also need an illustration tool like Adobe Illustrator to create the graphics to go into your animation. 

There are many online videos which cover how to use these tools. But be prepared to take at least a few days to get your head around the basics before you can start creating even simple animations. Animation takes time and patience to get right. Anything beyond very simple animation won’t be quick to do. 

Generally, it’s only worth doing marketing animation on your own if you’ve already got experience with it or your needs are simple e.g. moving text or shape-based illustrations. 

It’s also worth familiarising yourself with the basic principles of animation such as Disney’s well-known 12 basic principles of animatio

These classic principles dating back to 1931 add vibrancy and believability to the movement and animation of your designs. Principles like squash and stretch, and anticipation make animation feel more realistic and engaging for viewers. 

Working with a marketing animation team

In most cases though, you use an animator or agency team to do the work. They’ll have the software, the experience and expertise to create something better than you’d do on your own

You’d write them a brief with details of your brand identity and your marketing and business objectives.

You’d cover your target audience, what you want the marketing animation video to do, and the project budget and timings. You’ll also need to include technical specifications e.g. :-

Marketing Communication brief - blank template
  • which websites it’ll run on.
  • how long it should last.
  • if you need different length versions.
  • what dimensions it should run e.g. 720×576, 1280×720, 1920×1080. 
  • the video output formats needed e.g. .mp4, .mov, .wmv, .avi.

You’ll also need to supply any relevant brand assets. For example, your logo and brand colour palette. Plus, you’ll need someone to write the copy, either a separate copywriter or one from the agency. You’ll need to give them your tone of voice guidelines so the copy works for your brand.

Marketing animation idea proposal

The animator or animator team should review your brief and respond with an initial idea of how to make it work.

This’ll involve a first draft script and storyboard, to help you visualise the animation. 

You should review this and give them feedback to make sure it :- 

Three-brains Unpause campaign first draft storyboard

Once the animators have taken your creative feedback on board, they’ll want you to approve the script and storyboard before they start any animation. Most of the hard work comes once they start drawing and animating frames. Making changes once the animation is created isn’t impossible, but adds time and cost. Much faster and cheaper to agree on the story up front.

Adobe Animate example - Three-Brains advert

To give you an idea of how a marketing animation can work, we’ve gone back to the notes we made creating this Market Leader advert back in 2020. 

The goal was to create something to appear on our social media and our website. We spent a day writing a script and a storyboard to create a 15-second advert. Our objective was to drive awareness of Three-Brains by creating a distinctive visual without spending lots of money on production.

We already had some of the brand assets (e.g. the logo) created, but had to create others in Adobe Illustrator first e.g. the man and the ball, the brain and the thought cloud, and the heart design. 

Animation notes

The man and the ball is the most complex animation as the man has to appear to push against the ball and then fall. And the ball has to roll away. 

The brain thinking and the heart pounding are simpler as there is less movement.  The brain frames are just a reveal of a new image (the thought bubble). And the heart pounding is just increasing and decreasing the size of the heart image. (Relatively easy to do in Animate). 

The animation uses what’s called “tween” animations. You define the start and end point for an object which has to move. Then, you use Animate to fill in the frames between those points. For example, the ball moves from its start point to its end point. 

We also used a selection of the 5 basic text animations of moving, scaling, fading, rotation and masking to make the words move on screen.  

We ended up with a 15-second animated video which still appears on our home page and which lands a distinctive and engaging key message for us.

Conclusion - Marketing animation

If you’re the sort of person who likes to get hands-on with creative and communications, marketing animation is an interesting area to explore. 

Moving images generally create more impact than static ones. You can play around with basic build videos in PowerPoint or Keynote to get a feel for the difference movement makes. 

For more advanced animation you’ll need to get hold of a tool like Adobe Animate. It comes as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud license. 

Screenshot of a three-brains advert in development in Adobe Animate

Like most Adobe tools there’s a steep early learning curve. But, once you get your head around it, it’s not that hard to produce something of decent quality. 

However, there’s a big step up if you want to produce something more sophisticated. The Three-Brains example we showed here was deliberately simple as we’d only just started learning the tool when we made it. If you work with a professional animation team, you’ll get a higher quality outcome, but it’ll cost you more.

Using marketing animation (or not) usually boils down to what you’re trying to do, and your trade-off between cost and quality. Animation sits in between doing it yourself (cheap and low quality) or hiring professionals (expensive and high quality). Get it right, and it’s a great way to animate how you communicate with your customers. 

Check out our video content for marketing guide for more on using video. Or get in touch to learn more about how you can use marketing animation to deliver your marketing objectives.

Photo credits

Film crew : Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Confetti : Photo by Pablo Heimplatz on Unsplash

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