What is a campaign animation?
Campaign animation is a broad brush term used to describe animated videos used for the purposes of explaining a campaign.
By campaign, we might be talking about a charity campaign, to raise money or raise awareness around an issue, a lobbying campaign run by a trade association or pressure group, or even an advertising campaign.
The animation will be used to tell the story behind the campaign and, ultimately, why the viewer should care about it. Typically such an animated film will feature a narrative built around characters and landscapes, or representations of them in one form or another – though from time-to-time they may take more of an abstract motion-graphic led approach.
Shorter versions of animated videos can be turned into animated gifs for use on social media.
Why choose a campaign animation?
The biggest reason to choose an animation to tell the story of your campaign is its inherent flexibility. It is a blank canvas. You – or the creatives you’ve entrusted with the project – can take it any direction you like, limited only by time and available budget.
Let’s compare what’s involved in creating an animation, with creating a live action campaign video (which, don’t get us wrong, absolutely have their place).
Casting – design your own cast versus having to advertise, hold casting sessions, liaise with agents, agree fees, deal with lots of logistics.
Weather – in animation, you choose the weather; in live action, you’re at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Time – an animation can be created without the need for you to leave your desk, saving time (and money). Filming often requires lots of time spent travelling, either by yourself or your camera crew. While a solitary day of filming won’t break the bank, multiple days (along with hotel expenses) very quickly add up.
Edits and revisions – if you’re not happy with a scene in an animation, it can be recreated from scratch with (our creatives might not like us writing this) relatively minimal effort. If you’re not happy with the way a film has turned out, a reshoot is a logistical and financial headache.
But, what about the benefits of a campaign animation, I hear you say.
Well they are ideal for generating audience engagement – particularly around dry and complex topics where – for all the will in the world – someone sitting there talking about it just is going to be a bore fest.
They’re also a better bet than sticking with text based communications around your campaign, because nearly two thirds of people are visual learners i.e they learn through seeing charts, diagrams and illustrations rather than what they read.
This is borne out by the fact that web users read only 20% of text on a web page, whereas a video will, on average, retain 70% of its audience after 2 minutes.
A campaign animation will also perform well on social media. Research by Twitter showed that video is the most shared media type on the platform, receiving six times more retweets than photos.
They can easily be chopped up into shorter clips for social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram where shorter is better. This is something that can be pre-planned when scripting and storyboarding. Or they can be run full length on platforms that prefer longer content such as YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn.
They are equally at home on paid-for-social advertising as they are organic social feeds. With calls-to-action added in the right places, animated ads can drive high click-through rates, gaining you eyeballs on your campaign landing page, signatures on your petitions, donations or purchases of your product.
Using animation is also a great way to get in your brand team’s good books. If you have strict brand guidelines, in terms of fonts and colours, this can all be incorporated into the animation design so it has a strong synergy with your brand.
What makes for a great campaign animation
The starting point for any great animation is establishing the brief.
Be clear on who your main target audience is, and have an idea of what you want the viewer to think or feel as a result of watching your animation.
Next try and be clear on your key messages, and any supporting stats or facts you want included. Two minutes is the ideal length for a campaign animation, which equates to a script of 300 words. For this reason having some form of hierarchy of importance for the messages you want to convery is critical – because you may not be able to fit them all in.
That you can’t shouldn’t matter, as any animation worth its salt will encourage viewers to visit a website where they can find out more, in any case.
Audience information and key messages are all good creatives will need to take the project on and thereafter steer it towards the desired destination.
We often start a project by creating moodboards for our clients, to pin down what they’re looking for from a visual perspective. If you’re involved in creating an animation for the first time, thinking about the visual style can be intimidating. But there’s no need to fall into the trap of thinking you need the visual style nailed down before starting. Seeing moodboards will help you decide whether you want your animation to feature animated characters, or more abstract graphics, for example.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this – different content approaches are suited to different projects.
The next step of the process is deciding the narrative. Some animations can be purely informational and arguably don’t need a narrative, but it is essential to a good campaign animation. After all, your objective is to get people invested in your campaign.
When considering the narrative there are a number of things to bear in mind:
Consistency – a consistent narrative is much more satisfying for the viewer, and therefore more effective; for example looping back to an opening point on the conclusion.
Literal or metaphorical – there are times when it feels most appropriate to tell the story as it is, without trying to embellish it or attach it to a more complicated narrative – this is especially true if you have a compelling story to tell. But with a drier or more complex story, it can be more effective to wrap the whole thing up in a metaphor to make it more memorable for the viewer.
Whatever approach you decide to take, determining the narrative is a great opportunity to get your creativity flowing.
Once the narrative has been determined it is time to write the script. Irrespective of the topic, writing a script for animation is very different to writing text for a blog post or a web page. You’re trying to create a piece of theatre. Every word, sentence or punctuation carries weight.
The opening line is the hardest line to write of any script, but it is also the most important. It has to grab attention. The opening line is not the time to explain who you are; it’s the time to explain in the most hard hitting terms why your campaign is important and why the viewer should stay tuned.
Closing sentences are also important. They should build to a crescendo before your critical CTA. The last thing you want is viewers tuning out before the CTA.
Next up is storyboarding. With the narrative and script established, storyboarding is about fleshing out the ideas; providing a line-by-line annotation of the script. It’s also the time to tweak and adjust the script to ensure it’s in perfect harmony with the visuals.
With the storyboard complete, it’s time to create the animation graphics, also using the feedback garnered from the moodboard stage. Before being animated, each scene of the animation is created as a static graphic by a skilled illustrator.
But before your animation can be put into production, the voice-over needs to be recorded. We recommend using a voice-over in most circumstances – though there are times when text-only animations can be very powerful too.
A voice-over adds another dimension to the finished film; the visuals and voice can share the load, working in tandem to communicate your key messages. The voice-over artist you choose will play a big part in dictating the feel of the animation, in terms of their accent, the tone of their read and their pacing.
With the voice-over recorded and assets created, the animation itself can be put into production. It is typical for you to receive two drafts of the animation where you can provide feedback and suggest changes, before receiving the final draft.
Getting the most out of your campaign animation
Once you’ve signed off the finished animation, the next step is to use it. This isn’t a case of posting once, forgetting about it, and hoping it goes viral (don’t expect it to go viral at all, btw, unless it’s a hilarious cat video).
You will need a strategy for publishing your video, thinking about how you are going to host it on your website and how you are going to push it out on social media.
For your website there are generally two options: Upload to YouTube, grab the embed code and paste it into your CMS. But this has two major disadvantages: i) when the video appears in search results people are going to end up on YouTube, not your website; and ii) you can end up with all sorts of alternative suggestions once someone finishes playing your video that take them away from your brand.
By using Wistia or Vimeo instead you will avoid these two problems, while also having much more control over the way the video player looks on your website.
When it comes to social media, you will want to upload the video natively so people can watch it without having to click away from their news feed. You are unlikely to grab anyone’s attention if you just post a link to YouTube on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.
To post natively, you will need to ensure that your video meets the platform’s specifications for video. On Twitter, for example, you will not be able to upload a video longer than 2 minutes and 20 seconds (unless you are approved by Twitter to do so).
You may also want to think about getting short clips created from your main animation in 1:1 square format, or 9:16 format so they make more impact on social media by taking up more screen real estate.
How we can help
If you’re thinking about a campaign for your next project, then get in touch with Senate Media. We have been producing animations on a wide range of campaigns since 2013.
We have a dedicated team of animators, graphic designers, script writers, voice-over artists and project managers ready to help you make an impact.