Remember when you saw the first animated hand drawing graphs and pictures on a whiteboard while a voice over explained what was happening. It was effective right? It really drew you in. For the next 2 years at Bigfish, we received calls to do the 'drawing hand whiteboard animation thing'. Often we talked the client out of it with more original solutions. Sometimes we gave in and just did them. I mean they did work for a long time. Finally, I think we've seen the last of them.
Are We Sick of Explainer Videos?
Now it's mostly clean, vector characters, graphs and objects playing out numerous scenarios while we listen to a friendly voice explain the company's services. Oh and of course the right music track to keep it warm, light and fluffy. There's even companies setup solely to churn out explainer videos as fast and cheap as possible. And if you really want to save money, there's software that does it for you. But how long will this be effective? How long does it take for us to become numb to a style of execution? And what's next?
If you're Google and price isn't a consideration you can do things like this.
In this Google example, there's clever use of small sections of cel or frame by frame animation to move the characters through 3D space. This transports you rather than always looking at a 2D environment. The illustration is also simple and smart. You're using characters to represent your people or your audience, or both. So the design is super important. Shitty, rushed design makes your product look cheap. It can also look too much like a kids cartoon.
OK you're not Google, and don't have their budget. But that doesn't mean you're necessarily limited to a cookie-cutter approach. In 2009, Dropbox raised US $48,000,000 with this lo-fi vid.
This Dropbox example is a great script. The examples like the 'magic pocket' keep it human, relatable and not too tech. The lo-fi cutout visuals also provide cut-through. They may be verging on stupid but it works coz it adds to the product's offering of simplicity. And most importantly, it was different to what was out there at the time.
Like the whiteboard animations, clients often feel safer in copying a trend. Innovating is seen as being risky. But is it? We're currently bombarded on so many devices, what are our brains looking for? Something that comfortably looks like everything else. Or something different?
And how far do you go?
#Risk reaps rewards
Yes. I know. I love showing off our craziest explainer 'Mr Pipik'. But I love the story. We created Mr Pipik ranting about Global Warming in 2007 and chucked him on Youtube. It went viral, screened at festivals around the world and much, much later in 2013, was discovered by Ogilvy Mather. They pitched him to Orange global to represent one of Poland's biggest telcos 'Nju Mobile'. 6 years on and he's still ranting about their numerous products with over 15 million Youtube view. Why has he lasted? Coz he was different to everything else out there. Very different! Plus Nju Mobile has kept new content flowing ensuring the character has continued to grow, become familiar, and trusted. Even if he does look like a pear with pipe cleaner legs.
Of course not all products suit something this 'out-there'. And more often than not, your product or service just requires an explainer video that's simple and intelligent.
My point is to at least think about the possibilities. Be different. Don't rush. Think about episode 2, or 3. ie How will you keep your audience interested in 6 months, or a year.
'Explainer' is such a simple, straight term. But is it?