How Animation Is Reigniting the Fire Underneath Social Video

Ask any resident motion or animation designer why the format has surged in popularity in the last few years and they’ll tell you the same thing: motion graphics has simply been video’s answer to the infographic. It combines the visually stimulating elements of video with all the storytelling potential of editorial, packaged up in a compelling yet digestible format – perfect for the ever-busy minds of social media users in 2018.

Despite starting life as a library of static imagery, nowadays, you can’t scroll any social media platform for 30 seconds without encountering looping GIFs or videos in square and vertical. But something has been cropping up more and more as of late: high-quality animation has become a staple for any brand worth their salt. When asked why that is, Social Chain junior motion designer, Thom Hill, explains how the platforms have accommodated a shift in opportunity: “The evolution of motion graphics has moved hand-in-hand with the evolution of social – a few years ago, everything was based on static imagery. Now that we have so much more video-based social content, motion/ animation designers are free to use their expertise to further enhance social media.”

Motion graphics has been championed since 2014 – but it is more relevant than ever today

It’s true that this is not a brand spanking new format but, in the last five years or so, animation has made a name for itself in the content game, largely because of the rise of video within social. Users of our favourite platforms spend an average of 19 hours per month watching videos online, with 60% of shoppers watching product videos and an impressive further 90% reporting that such product videos lead them to make purchase decisions.

Despite having a solid video strategy, however, many marketers are struggling to even capture initial attention on social – news feeds are simply too saturated with content which all looks the same. Brands are also not just competing with huge amounts of content, they’re battling the fickle nature of the modern consumer. Word on the street is the average human attention span is down from 12 seconds to eight – less than the nine-second attention span of a goldfish. It’s this nugget of information which has spurred the makers of social-first video to create short, snappy, attention-grabbing content in an effort to compete but, as Social Chain strategy director Mike Blake-Crawford says, “brands can’t win on content anymore – everyone’s seen everything.”

The diverse nature of motion graphics will ensure its longevity

So if everyone’s seen everything and even video isn’t cutting it, what makes animation so special? According to Thom, it’s because “motion graphics is a hybrid of graphic design, animation and filmmaking.” And being a jack-of-all-trades means that the pioneers of this exciting specialism are arguably the perfect people to employ a fresh take on social video-based content, bringing something bespoke to the table every single time.

The format is naturally eye-catching, which bodes well for those wishing to translate powerful messaging to those with little time and attention to spare. 65% of people are visual learners, and 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual, with this information being processed 60,000x faster than text. 

Animation doesn’t simply rely on being eye-catching to be engaging, though – it’s ability to condense compelling stories into snackable micro-moments makes it ripe for social media channels. Even for the dullest of sectors, cohesive brand identities can be translated in an intriguing way, earning higher retention and engagement rates as well as converting more customers – as research shows that 71% of marketers say video conversion rates outperform other marketing content.

Social Chain head of animation, Merle Driver, explains: “As viewers, we want to be engaged. We want to be gripped. As much as we enjoy scrolling, we want the piece of content we’re watching now to hold our attention.

When you’re trying to stand out in a world saturated with content, with everybody shoving their brand down your throat – whether it’s a sponsored ad breaking up your Instagram feed, or a long-form YouTube series you have just stumbled upon – a few colourful and engaging seconds can make a big difference.

Animation and motion graphics have become an extremely powerful tool for retaining – even winning – viewers’ attention. We are seeing it more and more with otherwise ‘standard’ content; repurposed TVC content, sports highlights, podcasts and interviews – key moments, where a lack of momentum or intrigue would otherwise switch a viewer off, are now being filled – or subsidised – with flurries of animation, dynamic titles and colourful transitions.

I believe ‘social’ animation is being embraced by brands at a fantastic rate. As a viewer, I will more often than not stick around that little bit longer if a piece of content utilises animation in a creative way.”

But capturing attention is no longer enough – so where does animation sit in a long-form world?

Although attention spans haven’t suddenly increased again, long-form is on everybody’s agenda for 2018. The launch of IGTV and the announcement that short, ‘cheap’ videos will soon be deprioritised next to long-form content in Facebook’s News Feed confirm what we’ve suspected for some time: that initial attention grabbing can no longer be a main focus. Brands, marketers and creators need to think long-form if they hope to survive long-term and holding attention for anywhere between 10 and 60 minutes is the latest challenge for an industry which has only just mastered how to capture it.

As animation has clearly proven its ability to win attention, my question to Merle was: can animation thrive in a long-form environment?

“Animation and motion graphics definitely have a place within long-form content,” Merle asserts. “A strong, recognisable brand will always have a cohesive brand image: in relation to design and motion that includes your titles, lower thirds, transitions and graphics overlays. These elements are what sets a ‘premium’ brand or influencer apart from their competitors.

If you were to put the same raw edit – without any motion elements – alongside its polished counterpart – with moving elements, intros, supporting graphics, slick transitions and a recognisable aesthetic – you are going to feel more inclined to watch the latter; it’s just more engaging. These aesthetic elements create the unconscious relationship between a customer and a product.

With platforms gearing up towards a more ‘traditional’ and familiar feel (that of TV) it is so important for all brands looking to take these platforms (like IGTV) seriously, to do their utmost to make sure their content has the same legitimate feeling as any of the long-established powerhouses we all know and trust.”

Well, there you have it. If you haven’t been convinced already, know that if your audience enjoys your video ads, it increases brand association by 139% and purchase intent by a whopping 97%. Brands and marketers: it’s time to stop going through the motions and get serious about your attitude to animation.

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