Animation: A Welcome Escape for Consumers and Creatives

Loosen the constraints and limitations

Right now, you don't even need to step outside to be bombarded with the sobering headlines dominating the media. It seems that when we think 2020 couldn't get any more complex, a new trial or tribulation knocks at the door.

Ironically, in a time where we all need a reprieve more than ever, we've been forced to put vacations and moments of "zen" aside, as those of us fortunate enough to remain employed roll up our sleeves to keep our respective businesses and industries afloat. This, coupled with the difficulty of knowing what to say, how to say it, and in the end, how to get it done, makes next steps tenuous. Animation, however, provides not just a visual escape from reality but an escape from the physical parameters that may be limiting creativity.

An escape from reality

Consumers have been savvy to overt advertising for quite some time, but now with Covid-19 and the momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, brands fall under even closer scrutiny. Increasingly, with the open dialogue of social media, any brand communication can be picked to the bone in full public view, making each decision carry enormous, and sometimes almost debilitating, weight. We often think of animation as an escape that brings laughter, and while that's true, the power of animation stretches far beyond that. Animation allows us to create worlds that live alongside, but also free from the burdens of, our everyday life. The ability to build new worlds enables us to create an alternate reality that isn't so entangled in what "is," but instead easily embraces what we wish it could be.

An escape from creative boundaries

Your own creativity is the only limit when it comes to animation. Dream it, and it can be made. The visual language of animation is so vast, that you can home in on an aesthetic completely unique to your brand communication. But one aspect not often considered is that you're also given far more license to take artistic liberties. With animation, differences from the norm are not only embraced, but expected. In the industry, we often talk about the "uncanny valley" when animation is too close to reality, without quite looking real. Viewers actually expect animated worlds to communicate in unique and sometimes fantastical ways. In today's "cancel culture," historical, geographical and cultural inaccuracies are called out swiftly and sharply. While taking care in cultural representation is essential no matter what, having the freedom to tell stories not bound to the "now" can be freeing, allowing for more unique points of view.

Even though creatives thrive on inspiration and spontaneity, they often can get siloed into one style, genre or even product sector in advertising. Animation can provide an escape from the status quo and give creatives the avenue to push their artistic boundaries and discover groundbreaking ideas.

It's not just cartoons

While some of advertising's most beloved and enduring characters have emerged in cartoon-like campaigns, animation extends far beyond youth marketing to sophisticated, nuanced storytelling. Certainly, character animation has landed the likes of Tony the Tiger and the Pillsbury Doughboy as cultural mainstays, but this is just one of the many approaches to animated content. Animation opens the doors to metaphorical communication and can convey complex concepts with deeper meanings and emotions as we've increasingly seen in groundbreaking commercials and branded content.

An escape from physical limitations

While live action allows for storytelling rooted in humanity, it also places limitations on the conveyable themes and concepts, not to mention the physical limitations of the actual shoots. The ability to create photoreal representations means that creatives can be true to all product and brand guidelines, and yet be entirely freed in how they approach them visually. Animation also allows products and packaging to be showcased in ways not possible in the physical world. A camera in the digital space can do things that cameras in the real world cannot. That, along with the ability to have assets that can easily be re-thought, re-skinned, and repositioned allows creativity to move quickly and efficiently, concepting and executing at the breakneck pace required in today's climate. The ability to easily work remotely, sharing screens, and sometimes updating on the fly allows creatives to continue to be as deep in the process as they wish to be.

In our current climate, where continuing uncertainty surrounds a return to standard live-action production, many producers, creatives and marketers are exploring animation for the first time. While animation will never be a 1:1 substitute for live action, it actually opens up the doors for untapped creative possibilities that can extend far beyond a single spot or even campaign. Unbound from creative or physical boundaries, animation can enhance brand and product messaging, opening new worlds to creatives and consumers alike, giving them both, perhaps, a little bit of the escape they deserve.

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David Bates
David Bates is managing director at ATK PLN.

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