In a world grappling with the pandemic where physical ad shoots have been difficult, animation in advertising, using 2D, 3D or mixed media, has taken centrestage
When Sylvester daCunha created the Amul girl in 1966, little did he know that the unassuming blue-haired girl in a red polka-dotted frock would become one of India’s most celebrated animation characters. As a social commentator portraying witty and timely executions over the past five decades, the Amul girl has become a trendsetter in the advertising world. “The idea of the character, devised by my father, was to sell butter while she’s also telling us what is happening in the country at that moment,” says Rahul daCunha, the son of Sylvester and creative director of daCunha Communications, the Mumbai-based advertising agency that has handled the Amul account since 1966. “Many times, advertising agencies let go of the property or the animated idea, but the popularity and connection with the Amul girl — or, for that matter, Vodafone India’s popular mascot ZooZoos — have been around for some years,” adds daCunha.
In a world run down by the pandemic where physical ad shoots have been difficult, animation in advertising is occupying a central role. Using 2D, 3D or mixed media, it is serving as a powerful storytelling medium and is being accepted by many marketers such as Grofers, Chennai Super Kings, Castrol India, Acko General Insurance, among others. And why not? As it is not only serving as an instant solution to production problems, but also helping them stay connected with consumers. “In the absence of shoots, animation advertising is a great substitute in the current work-from-home scenario. Animators can provide the same kind of output from home as they would in a studio,” says daCunha. “But a lot of agencies and marketers might see this as a stop-gap measure and not as a viable alternative to live action,” he adds.
A 2019 KPMG report, however, revealed that the demand could hold up, as the animation and VFX industries work for the long term. Further, the animation industry revenue for FY19 was estimated at Rs 88 billion. Talking about the appeal of animation in advertising, Chris Garbutt, global chief creative officer of New York-based advertising agency TBWA\Worldwide, says, “Brands turned to animation and design to help them stand out from the sea of sameness.”
Garbutt says the lockdown made brands reinvent their way of showing up in culture. “There are only so many times brands can repurpose old film footage to suit new messages before it becomes boring for the intended audience. Animation design sets brands free to be bold and original in their narratives. It’s also a much nimble way of producing content at the speed of culture, and often it’s much more affordable than other techniques. Animation design will continue to be a powerful way for brands to communicate in a bespoke manner,” he offers.
In recent months, TBWA has used animation and design in several executions, including work for the state of New York and the Canadian Women’s Foundation. TBWA\Chiat\Day New York (the American division of the advertising agency TBWA Worldwide) created a series of out-of-home (OOH) posters, billboards and animations for Broadway, Times Square and Columbus Circle, as well as signage around Albany, the state capital, and Buffalo, to encourage people to stop the spread of Covid-19 by wearing a mask, practising social distancing and washing hands.
There are no constraints in animation, feels Anish Mehta, chief executive officer, Cosmos Maya, a Singapore- and India-based animation studio that produced Motu Patlu, a kids’ show on Nickelodeon in India. Further, filming at home with a mobile or hand-held equipment sometimes does not solve the brand’s objective. “Animation gives flexibility and artistic space to experiment by giving more colour and variety to a brand’s voice. For any kind of extraordinary and dreamy-looking visual directives, animation is required,” says Mehta.
Animation also provides a level-playing field when it comes to cost. “Brands had to work around the logistical constraints of advertising with content creators and consumers all working and interacting from home, owing to which they had to condition the ad spend to adapt while staying relevant and creative. In this regard, animation is a better option, as it provides a playing field at a fraction of a cost,” adds Mehta.
Bengaluru-based dairy venture MilkLane recently launched Nutrinos, dairy products for children in the age group of 3-8 years, using animation advertising. Their animated mascots — Proto, Vita and Calci — explain the importance of nutrition to kids. “The mascot have a unique role to play. Proto talks about muscle growth, Calci talks about strong bones and Vita, with a shield, talks about immunity. So it contextualises the conversation with moods and expressions, very apt for kids and mothers,” says Vivek Sharma, chief marketing officer, MilkLane. “With content consumption changing, the focus has shifted to digital. For advertisers and marketers, this is the time to reimagine communication and find newer ways to create a memorable digital experience. Animation can simplify complex topics to bring any concept to life without being bound by physical or logistical constraints,” he adds.
In June last year, Mother Dairy, too, launched Rocket Ice Creams (in French vanilla and Belgian chocolate variants) with the mascot Neila. “The need to employ an adorable intergalactic alien called Neila is not only derived from the alien’s colour as referred to the colour blue in Hindi, but has a fun trivia hidden in it. It is alien spelt in reverse. Thus, making the product more relevant, experiential and fun for young consumers,” says Gurugram-based Ritu Sharda, chief creative officer at Ogilvy, which has worked on the concept.