Six Tips for Entertaining and Not Offending with Animated Videos

Editor’s Note: In this guest blog post by London-based production and animation studio Qudos Animations, founder Manroop Takhar and content writer Marianna Keen explore the pros and cons of animated videos for brands, including key dos and don’ts for developing content that engages your audience without offending. Their tips provide a global perspective on the use of animation as an advertising method for modern brands.

The challenge with all advertising is to stand out from the clutter. Animation allows great opportunity for the imagination to take a lead in your advertising, but all scenarios, characters and even sounds need to be considered. Beyond all of the other steps in the creative and technical process of creating animated videos, a key factor to keep in mind is also how to avoid offending your target market.

For example, something you might not immediately consider is how your animated video might offend with the appearance of your characters because they not culturally diverse enough, or because there are no females. Terminology and accents can also be an issue, as can the use of an animated animal – if it appears to show racism, for example.

However, due to the light hearted nature of animation, there might be some scenarios you can get away with that you might not with live action, like in addressing sensitive content. The key is to know where to draw the line.

To help you achieve the best chances of entertaining your audience without causing offense and damaging a brand’s image, below are some practical tips to keep in mind when creating an animated video or marketing campaign:

Tip 1. Consider a fit with your product or service

An animated video can intrigue the audience with imaginative or humorous concepts, immediately captivating by appealing to their senses with colors, images, innovative design and sounds. Your audience is more likely to watch a video about a controversial, overlooked or avoided topic such as social issues, for example. A good practice is to captivate your audience and wait to reveal a product, after you have the viewer’s attention.

Take a look at this video “The Girl Effect” which addresses the sensitive topic of the exploitation of women in poverty for example:

“The Girl Effect” Animated Video

This is a great example of how a digital media artists may avoid showing the actual product or topic in their animated video if it’s delicate in nature. The video also demonstrates how animation is not only an effective medium for raising awareness of important global issues that can make people feel uncomfortable, but also of drawing viewers in without offending.

Context plays a huge part in the perception of anything, and this is also the case in the advertising world. If you consider some of your content ideas controversial and possibly offensive, think again about their fit with your brand’s product offering or target audience.

For a product like the one below, a book about a healthy diet for increased libido, the topic of sex can often embarrass people. Animation can be an effective tool for representing a sexual scenario that feels less offensive than the same scenario played out in live action.

Take a look at this promotional video for the Sex Diet book produced by Qudos Animations:

Animated Video Promo for “Sex Diet” Book by Qudos Animations

Depending on where you show your video animation, this approach is far less likely to offend, so context is key. Alternatively, showing a scantily clad couple in a kitchen appliance advertisement, even if they are animated characters, might not be so effective. Keep in mind that other triggers that can engage your audience are adventure, drama, excitement or cuteness.

Tip 2. Think about where you will be advertising

Speaking of context, keep in mind that where you advertise will not only be important in regards to the adults you reach, but also the potential of influencing younger minds. Your use of animation in the wrong place can attract children and be considered highly unethical. This can be the case for any adult-centered product – whether lingerie or home insurance – as reaching out to young minds with advertising is in itself controversial. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t use animation to advertise these products, but rather you need to think about boundaries, what marketing vehicles you use, and what your aim is.

Tip 3. Remember, animation only takes the edge off of some controversial content

Although sexual appeal or images can offend, their use in advertising can be successful. Alternatively, subjects like violence, highly derogatory terminology and illegal drug taking,  are far less acceptable, even in animation. Here, it is far less the images themselves that offensive, but the concept, so animating your scenario will make less difference to the video’s potential to offend. Even what you might consider to be mild aggression – a shove from a male character to a female character – could be deemed violent and inappropriate, whether in an animation or not.

Tip 4. Avoid obvious widespread offense

I use the word “obvious” here, but it’s surprising how marketers will apply a provocative idea and be surprised at the subsequent reaction. You might think animation is light-hearted and unlikely to offend, but you should consider the same aspects as in any other marketing medium, if not more so. Violence and abuse are obvious offenders, and their application – even in a perceived mild form – can have just as negative an effect when applied in animation as in live action video.

Sexism has become much more controversial over the years, so it’s best to try to include a mixture of male and female characters in your animation. When implementing gender-specific characters, make sure you don’t unnecessarily offend one gender. For example, by depicting a female animated character as a submissive, fat hippo that can’t drive, while the male is depicted as a powerful lion in a highly revered job, your audience may feel as if you are reinforcing negative gender stereotypes.

Topics such as religion, race, nationality and political matters are sensitive matters so be aware of any derogative links between your animated characters and the characteristics you give them.

The “Compare the Market” animated advertisements, which feature computer generated meerkats speaking with a Russian accent have gained a lot of praise. The characters are powerful and sophisticated, and there’s no derogative link between meerkats and the Russian accent to suggest prejudice. The satire is focused on just the Eastern European pronunciation of the word “market”. Watch this one below from Passion Pictures:

Compare the Market / The Battle of Fearlessness CGI Commercials

However, remember that just because you don’t get complaints does not mean your advertisement has not alienated certain markets. Some people just don’t complain, for various reasons, including culture. If the creatures in this advertisement were to mock an African or Middle Eastern accent, the response from the public could be quite different.

Tip 5. Define your target audience and apply this to your animation

Perhaps you don’t mind offending some people out there, so long as they’re not your target. Emotional appeals have become very popular in advertising, because rational, functional-based differentiation is often very difficult, while triggering emotions can have a powerful effect. Humor and satire in animation can be effective for engaging viewers, and if targeted correctly they can be successful marketing tactics.

This Kit Kat animated commercial, which applies innovative computer generated images, is a marvelous example of animation combined with satire:

Kit Kat /Ultimate Break Animated Commercial

The advertisement mocks office life and just hints at mocking religion by suggesting that you will go to heaven by eating a KitKat. But, it is also mildly sexist, which could alienate some people.

Being controversial can raise your profile, but this may not always be the desired intent.  Whether you reach your goals of encouraging more conversions and heightening brand image will depend on how well you appeal to your target market, and weighing that against any lost potential customers.

Getting into the mindset and behavior patterns of your target audience has become increasingly important in marketing. This is not only central to establishing how to grab and engage potential customers, but also how not to push them away.

Tip 6. Consider buyer characteristics

A shopper’s characteristics influence how he/she perceives and reacts to stimuli from marketers when it comes to making a buying decision. Consumer buyer behavior is influenced by four key sets of buyer characteristics: cultural, social, personal and physical and advertising has the potential to offend in any of these categories.

Cultural elements include nationality and appearance; while physical factors such as size and disabilities are also important to consumers. Personal aspects include personality, age, gender, demographics, political views and interests; while social norms and influences will also play a part in perception and reaction. Each individual is influenced by a variety of the aforementioned elements, so none of your target audience will be precisely the same, but the key is to pick out the dominating factors and consider the variables. For example, if you are advertising a chocolate bar to men, you might not mind offending some women with your sexist advertising – as in Yorkie’s “not for girls” campaign.

Yorkie “Not for Girls” Commercial Ad

Not all women will be offended; whereas some men might – as individual characteristics will inevitably come in to play.

What you need to ask yourself is: Is the advertisement’s appeal to this segment of the market worth the risk of losing brand image among another segment?

Through creative risks in the use of controversial content in animated advertisements, a company may succeed in attracting the attention of the public and standing out amid the current clutter of images and videos. But to avoid damaging brand image and diminishing customer base these many variables should be taken into account when forming a marketing strategy.

We wish you all the best in your animated video endeavors!

About the authors Located in London, leading production studio, Qudos Animations, was founded by Dr. Manroop Takhar, and offers a variety of highly creative services. Visit their website to learn more about video animation. Co-author, Marianna Keen, is content writer for Qudos Animations, with expertise in marketing and consumer behavior. Follow Marianna on Google Plus. You can contact the studio on (+44) 020 8891 2077 or by email: info@qudos-animations.com, or on Google Plus.

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Author: Mani O'Brien

Mani O’Brien is the Online Editor for the FIDMDigitalArts Blog and the Social Media Marketing Manager for FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. She earned her bachelor of arts degree in print journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communications at Arizona State University in 2006, and Associate of Arts degree in Graphic Design (Professional Designation) at FIDM in 2010. When she’s not brainstorming social media marketing ideas or writing about the graphic design and digital media, she enjoys practicing yoga, reading magazines, and hanging out with friends and family in Los Angeles.

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