Brands chose to be ‘lively’ than ‘animated’ in 2014: Suresh Eriyat

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when I say, chubby Indian girl dressed in a polka dotted frock with blue hair and a half pony tied up? I am sure brand Amul rings a bell here. Asian Paint’s Gattu, ICICI’s Chintamani, Air India’s Maharajah are all animated characters who over the years have created an undying bond with us. All these sound like past, don’t they? Yes, today, we are in a situation where we have to start recollecting the relevance of animation to advertisers and we need to relaunch animation all over again. When I launched Famous House of Animation in partnership with Famous Studios, back in 1998 we created many iconic characters and animated ads. To name a few, Simpu, MTV Poga, Amaron Battery ads, Top Ramen noodles, ICICI Chintamani, Levis stick figure etc. The first ever animated music video we made in 2003-2004 still is a hit among the youngsters. But how many music videos are getting animated in India nowadays? How many animated characters were created in the year 2014? I have a feeling that animation is getting obsolete in our country. Year 2014 saw the world of advertising turning more experimental and bold in terms of themes and subjects that they are using to communicate their brand message. Animation this year has played miniscule roles in weaving different elements to create a strong brand message that resonates with the audience. With the decreasing number of animated advertisements being shown on Indian television, it is evident that instead of being bold and experimenting with different mediums, brands are going for the safer options which is ‘go emotional, when in doubt’ route. These days very few brands are using 2D, 3D and clay animation to create a character that matches the characteristics of the brand, thus lending it a fresh look and promoting a new medium of communication. Amaron Battery and ICICI Prudential were some of the first few players who explored clay animation as a medium to create memorable mascots and that too when they were targetting grown up audience and not kids. The generic cliché that the brand managers keep at is that ‘animation is for kids’! It is astonishing and disappointing to know that animation that made Amaron Battery a successful entity within a couple of years of inception has been branded still as ‘cartoon for kids’ genre! The popularity of animated mascots and ads is not only based on the response that these characters get, but also the fact that these faces have a higher recall value. Apart from giving the brand a new perspective, such characters are remembered for a longer duration, in fact I would call it ‘Infinite Shelf life’! An endorser must convey the character of the brand. Though celebrities help in getting quick eyeballs for the brand, there is a problem of plenty that one faces with them. Celebrities get associated with too many products and therefore it is difficult to relate them with one particular product.  When one thinks of Shahrukh Khan instantly brands like Airtel, Santro and Emami come to your mind. No brand gets a distinct brand recall. This is not the case with animated ads; the Kit Kat dancing babies released this year is a proof of that fact. It received over million views online, the thought of ‘Good things happen over a break’ has enabled them to take their core positioning to the next level and connected them with the masses. Look at ‘Dumb ways to Die’. It is a phenomenon!!!! 94,964,313 views when this article was written!!! Apart from Kit Kat and Dumb ways to Die, internationally many brands have switched to animation because the cost of creating these ads is as much as a regular live shot commercial, but these give creative directors more scope and flexibility and even in terms of recall value, they have better reach. Look at Chipotle-Scarecrow, and John Lewis Bear and Bunny ad. The impact of these ads still depends on how effectively it conveys the brand values and ideals that consumers would associate with. But what makes them special as ads are their dynamic nature and the way they break the clutter and shine out! Thinking from the point of view of an animator, as creators we can design a completely new persona for the brand. This year specifically has seen lesser animators coming out with new characters from our country. It is a risk for the brand and the agency to use animated characters especially for unconventional brands like banks, automobiles, accessories etc but it has paid off well in the past when they took such risks. So is this risk perception for real or not? (These are purely personal views of Eeksaurus founder and creative director Suresh Eriyat and does not subscribe to these views)