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Why animation is best for complex storytelling

Jul 6, 2017

Of all the advertising and social media fails in recent memory, Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner campaign takes some beating.

Haven’t seen it? Take a look for yourself...

The fall-out of a global social media fail

Soon after it launched, viewers pointed out that the ad’s imagery was reminiscent of Ieshia Evans standing up to armed police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, while protesting the shooting of Alton Sterling. Whereas Black Lives Matter and other movements struggle to seek social justice, the protest in Pepsi’s ad was solved with a fizzy drink.

Does this mean Pepsi will stop the ongoing police brutality in the United States or even play a part in bringing about world peace? Obviously not, and the campaign received widespread condemnation for lacking awareness.

However, this isn’t the first time a global brand has encountered high-profile ridicule when trying to tackle a difficult issue. In fact, complex storytelling is far from easy.

The challenges of complex storytelling

Seeing as everybody has a voice on the internet, brands must be increasingly careful with their promotional activity. Coming across as sincere is paramount. And it’s also important to avoid offending or alienating your audience.

Striking this balance is tough, especially if you’re producing a live action video. Along with writing a script that sensitively addresses the issues at hand, you also need to rely on the performances of actors, who may or may not have professional experience.

There’s nothing more cringe-worthy than watching an amateur struggle with their lines or delivery. The message you’re paying to communicate is completely lost as the audience switches off or concentrates solely on the floundering on-screen talent.

Other potential problems include a slow turnaround, possible reshoots, unexpected production costs, and long delays in post-production.


The advantages of animation

While Disney feature films and Saturday morning cartoons are typically created to make kids laugh or help them learn, it’s a different story in the corporate world.

Animation opens up untold possibilities, with complete creative control over the production process. It’s a more delicate and less confronting medium, where even the smallest of details can be finely tuned at any time to ensure the tone is just right.

Rather than recreating a scene in live action, animation offers greater flexibility to communicate through symbolism. It can approach difficult topics tactfully but with enough weight to indicate significance.


How Jumbla tackled complex storytelling through animation


 - Childwise

This animation delicately, yet decisively, explains to kids that if they fall victim to abuse, they’re not at fault and shouldn’t be ashamed. By using a medium accessible to primary school children, real-life conversations were contextualised into something less threatening. This was a key part of the brief, as Childwise wanted to depict an abuse scenario in a non-confronting way.

 - The Wilderness Society

This series of seven animated videos highlights the plight of threatened species by dressing human characters in animal onesies. The same idea shot in live action could have come across as humorous and not serious enough for the brief. However, Jumbla’s take on The Wilderness Society’s message helped the audience picture a role reversal in which they were the ones threatened by extinction.

Complete creative control

A reluctance to explore emerging techniques when communicating sensitive issues is understandable.

But animation is a versatile and effective medium that offers complete creative control and the ability to engage with audiences, no matter who they may be.

If you have a complex story that could be told using animation, contact us today.

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