Moving stuff: the recent rise of the animated ad

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but Covid has put the kibosh on quite a few things.

For many brands, it meant a swift U-turn – quickly dropping campaigns that were already in the can, for comms that were more in keeping and reflective of the crazy times we suddenly found ourselves in.

At the same time, the government’s insistence that we stay at home to save lives and the sheer need to get something out there quickly meant that lavishly produced, beautifully shot spots were suddenly out the window.

In their place came a flood of homespun, handmade ads – shot on phones in living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms; with hand-markered messages replacing slick motion graphics.

In short, the creatives had to quickly become even more creative.

Now we find ourselves a many months down the line and living with the restrictions the pandemic has enforced on every aspect of our lives. And while in adland, socially distanced shoots have become a thing (we know, having shot the new Hoover H-HANDY 700 ad in October), it seems that many brands have turned to animation to connect with their audiences.

For me, there are a few reasons for this. On a practical level, with no need for a physical shoot with huge numbers of cast and crew, minimising contact and maintaining social distancing isn’t an issue.

Also, animation gives you the scope to express concepts that would be harder to get across with live action. This is certainly the case with Childline’s excellent ‘Nobody’s normal’ ad, where strands of spilling wool are used to represent the fears and feelings the protagonist is struggling to keep inside.

Christmas 2020 was always going to be a different one. So both John Lewis and McDonalds took a different approach in joining Aldi by producing an animated ad. While Aldi’s continued the whimsical tale of their popular anthropomorphised root vegetable Kevin, both Maccies and JL’s offerings were more emotive in tone and reflective of the nation’s collective mood.

And this is where I feel animation really comes into its own. The lightness, warmth and subtlety of animation can help to soften the delivery of darker, more difficult subject matter.

Its visual charm wins us over, making us feel somehow more comfortable and more willing to watch. Drawing us in; fixing and focusing our attention. Moving us and making sure the message lands successfully in our hearts and minds.

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