On 26th April, we explored how animation can uniquely communicate sensitive cultural ideas.
Where it might once have been seen as childish or twee, an increasing number of brands and organisations across diverse industries are turning to animation. Whether that’s to add a touch of irreverence and character to a TV ad, or to mark a special occasion on social media, the diversity of styles on offer means that animation is being applied in equally diverse ways.
We were joined in the Library at Shoreditch House by Alex Ostrowski, founder of creative agency Lovers, who has worked closely with the NSPCC on a number of animation projects, successfully engaging large groups of disparate audiences (and pleasing awards juries) in the process. Speaking alongside Alex was Paul Layzell, one half of animation duo Layzell Bros, who have created eye-catching work for the likes of E4, 3 Mobile and Harvey Nichols.
Here's what we learnt.
As many online formats favour brevity, animation can come to the fore. As Paul explained, on social media work often has to be simpler and clearer as there is less time to capture people’s attention. Moreover, as the nature of content on social media is more fast-moving and often ephemeral, there is often more room to experiment with characters and style.
A fitting medium for telling stories with sensitivity
In contrast to live action, animation as an artform and as a vehicle for storytelling is limitless — “you are only bound by your imagination,” Paul described.
Over the past few years, Lovers has been working in partnership with the team at the NSPCC to create well-judged animations that tackle challenging topics with sensitivity. As Alex explained, animations are used by the charity across three key areas: providing children and families with support and advice around a specific subject; telling real stories that show the value of the NSPCC’s work to aid its fundraising efforts; and as brand communications.
Asked to consider complex and challenging subjects — from bullying to sexual abuse — Lovers often work directly with NSPCC counsellors to gain a greater understanding of the issues and experiences the animations are setting out to tackle.
When telling complex stories, Alex explained that animation can be apt as the processes are painstaking — the intricacy of the animations and the effort and craft required to create them allows each film to convey a sense of care.
Style and substance
The Layzell Bros’ irreverent brand of animation is distinctive, and animators more broadly understand the importance of evincing a strong and unique sense of style. Style is important, Paul agreed, but it should always be secondary to the idea, “Our work will always be in a similar vein, but it should have the flexibility to evolve to suit the brief.”
Given the diversity of topics Lovers has been asked to tackle on behalf of the NSPCC, Alex emphasised the importance of selecting an animation style that is right for each subject.
To highlight how the NSPCC’s art and play therapy programmes have helped children who have suffered from abuse and neglect, Lovers created an animation entitled Melissa’s Story. Narrated by her grandparents, the young girl’s story is told in intricate stop motion that incorporates the toys and art supplies used in therapy — from pictures coloured in crayon, to scenes drawn onto a sandpit.
In other projects past and upcoming, Lovers has used watercolour to convey faded memories, or rotoscoping to add a sense of realism — “it’s about having the right tools for the job,” Alex explained, “the aesthetic has to suit the idea.”
This feeds into Lovers’ broader approach as an agency, which involves tapping a global network of creatives to collaborate with the central London team on a project-by-project basis. This means that Alex is able to look to a different animator, whose style is best suited to each project.
Across these animations, capturing an emotion is as important as recounting as a narrative. Choosing the right style and employing the right techniques helps evoke nuanced emotions within each animation.
Seeing and hearing
Both speakers agreed on the important role that audio plays in creating impactful animations. When approaching an animation, you are aiming to create an imagined world that is cohesive and self-contained. Small details and light touches added through audio can help to make those worlds richer and more believable — for example, the sounds in the Melissa’s Story animation were created by stretching and warping the noises made by various children’s toys.
Creating work that’s effective, as well as engaging
As much as brands and audiences appreciate the craft and creativity involved in animation, marketing teams ultimately look to animations to achieve tangible commercial or organisational goals, whether that’s driving sales or donations.
Both speakers agreed that the quality of the creative and its ultimate effectiveness are intrinsically linked. “Its an animator’s job to make a great film and deliver the right message,” Paul described. By communicating the client’s key message through content that is engaging and well-executed, animation can be a useful tool for brands and businesses.
“You have to connect with the core of the client’s problem, and make recommendations in service of that goal,” agreed Alex, admitting that decisions that are made on purely creative terms don’t wash with marketing teams anyway — “everything you do has to be part of the broader strategy.”
There's room for humour
The pair went on to discuss a project they partnered on, creating a series of 10-second idents to advertise a new app created by the NSPCC. Entitled Zipit, the app aims to help young people express their displeasure at unwanted sexts by suggesting a series of memes to send in response. Each of the short idents explain how the app works, using the Layzell Bros' irreverent, pop style.
Location:Shoreditch House Library,
London, E1 6AW,
Start:26th April, 2016 at 9:00am
End:26th April, 2016 at 11:30am