Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Animated Commercials

Commercials are a great creative opportunity and a way for smaller studios to make money. There are always companies and ad agencies looking for ways to get their products noticed. I wouldn't recommend trying to develop characters specifically for commercials unless you are willing to sell most if not all of the rights as part of the deal. It is not unusual for you to get models and a storyboard and basically your part is the execution of the animation. But for smaller clients they may be more open to being more flexible creatively because they don't have the big budget resources of the larger companies. There continues to be opportunities for animated web and mobile commercials, again it is the smaller companies that provide the best situations for smaller studios. Little guys are often more open and comfortable working with other little guys. The key to getting noticed by people wanting to develop commercials is to create a reputation for cartoon work that is fresh, and unique. The ideal web commercial is one where people seek it out or pass it around because it is so funny and entertaining. The sponsor gets noticed, their products get noticed, and you get the chance to do more commercials which helps pay the rent.

I think commercials are an incredible challenge for any cartoon maker. Creating a successful commercial is not only rewarding financially but it is quite exciting to see your work well received and effective. The downside is that most commercials are anonymous except between you and the agencies or clients but still they are very satisfying.

A lot of people might be surprised at how many potential clients exist who have a need for web-based advertising. Many ads are irritating and annoying and no where is that more true then on the internet. Yet so few people take advantage of the fact that commercials can be entertaining and informative if creatively done and it is a win-win for the viewer and the sponsor. Most internet advertising is very poorly done and ineffective based mainly on the fact that it is ignored because it is boring or irritating. Much like most internet content, there is a big gap between the well done material and the not so well done. And that spells opportunity for the creative cartoonist.

I think that one of the funniest and most creative uses of animation was the stomach character that use to be in Alka Seltzer commercials. The little stomach argues and pleads with its human owner in a very funny animated discussion. I remember at the time thinking what a really fun way to get people to watch a commercial about upset stomachs and medicine. Very creative, we all have conversations with our stomach on occasions and it does seem to be telling us how it is viewing life at the moment.

"Man vs. Stomach" campaign by Jack Tinker & Partners in 1971 featured an R. O. Blechman's cartoon drawing of a man's stomach complaining about his owner "You should see the way he stuffs himself at his mother's." When the man defends his love of pepperoni pizza the stomach shouts back "Do you like heartburn! Well, you're going to get it." Of course, the upset stomach was finally soothed by the curative powers of Alka Seltzer.
Listen closely to the stomach character; I’m pretty sure that voice is the famous comic Gene Wilder. This was funny, entertaining and it informed us of the product and its benefits, a great example of a simple animated commercial. Of course with today's humor it would be a guy arguing with a big ugly fart character about "you eat that stuff and your going to release my devastation on to millions of innocent noses as a WMD!!!."

On a more serious note, these types of commercials help to remind us that creative animation is an excellent way to advertise products or services that otherwise would be very difficult to promote. There are some products that just wouldn't be able to attract much viewer interest without humorous animation.

What do you think of using an animated cartoon character to promote a political candidate? I always thought that a good cartoon would be killer for getting somebody elected; it sure would beat all the name calling and mudslinging. For a politician their biggest challenge in being elected would be to get people in the voting booth with their name prominently on their mind with a very positive image. It wouldn't matter who they are running against as long as their commercials made them a household name that people just liked. I realize this is very cynical but it sure beats the way we approach most campaigns where as voters we always seem to be voting for the least jerky of a group of jerks.

Related article: Animated Commercials an Often Overlooked Creative Treasure Chest



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