Does Your Busi­ness Have Char­ac­ter?

Animation Magazine - - Tv - By Martin Gre­bing

In a crowded mar­ket­place, where com­pe­ti­tion is fierce, busi­nesses of all shapes and sizes are clam­or­ing for any edge they can get. One of the sharpest edges ever forged is that of brand­ing a busi­ness, prod­uct or ser­vice with an an­i­mated char­ac­ter.

Ev­ery­thing from ce­real to clean­ing prod­ucts to pizza to peanuts to toi­let pa­per to mu­cous medicine to bug spray to car re­ports and car in­surance has re­lied heav­ily on this mar­ket­ing weapon to bat­tle and de­feat the com­pe­ti­tion. With the av­er­age con­sumer be­ing bom­barded with al­most 100,000 mar­ket­ing mes­sages per day, hav­ing a well-de­signed char­ac­ter com­mu­ni­cate your mes­sage is per­haps the best way to cut through the clut­ter and achieve top-of-mind aware­ness.

A well-crafted an­i­mated char­ac­ter com­mu­ni­cates on an emo­tional level with the viewer, tran­scend­ing its own busi­ness, prod­uct or ser­vice, be­ing re­called and re­mem­bered even be­fore the name of its own com­pany or logo. An­i­ma­tion Ad Power Ad leg­end Leo Bur­nett was one of the first to un­der­stand and ap­ply mo­ti­va­tional psy­chol­ogy in ad­ver­tis­ing and truly re­al­ize the power of char­ac­ters. He per­suaded Kel­logg to use car­toon an­i­mals as mas­cots be­cause he thought an­i­ma­tion would make for bet­ter, more col­or­ful com­mer­cials that would hook kids and moms. And it did — mas­sively. An­i­mated car­toon char­ac­ters com­pletely trans­formed and rev­o­lu­tion­ized the en­tire ce­real in­dus­try, ex­po­nen­tially in­creas­ing sales al­most overnight for ev­ery com­pany that used this tac­tic.

In fact, ad­ver­tis­ing with char­ac­ters was so ef­fec­tive that in the late 1960s, con­sumer ad­vo­cates claimed that us­ing car­toon char­ac­ters to tar­get chil­dren was overly ma­nip­u­la­tive, if not un­eth­i­cal. Even­tu­ally, in 1990, Congress passed a law ban­ning TV char­ac­ters from pitch­ing di­rectly to chil­dren in the mid­dle of a show.

More re­cently, in 2011, an ar­ti­cle in Pe­diat- rics mag­a­zine found that chil­dren who had been asked to taste a “new” ce­real (which was se­cretly the ex­act same ce­real as be­fore), re­ported lik­ing it more if there were a char­ac­ter de­picted on the box.

But an­i­mated char­ac­ters aren’t just kid’s stuff. The sec­ond-largest car in­surance com­pany in the United States spends more than $1 bil­lion per year on ad­ver­tis­ing and a sub­stan­tial por­tion, if not the lion’s share of this bud­get, is de­voted to the brand­ing and an­i­ma­tion of its elo­quent, rep­til­ian mas­cot.

From a prac­ti­cal per­spec­tive, an an­i­mated char­ac­ter can be far more de­sir­able than an ac­tor. For ex­am­ple, a char­ac­ter never ages. Tony the Tiger has been vir­tu­ally the same age since his birth in the 1950s and is only get­ting more buff as the decades pass (no thanks to the ce­real he’s been ped­dling).

A char­ac­ter never gets sick or gains weight un­less de­signed to in­ten­tion­ally do so. It is com­mon for hu­man celebri­ties and mod­els to be re­quired to main­tain a very spe­cific look, weight and pub­lic be­hav­ior to main­tain a con­tract with a spon­sor. If any­thing should hap­pen to the con­trary, they can be dropped with­out warn­ing. A char­ac­ter is ex­empt from such con­di­tions and reper­cus­sions.

A char­ac­ter doesn’t get stuck in traf­fic and miss video shoots. A char­ac­ter doesn’t have chem­i­cal depen­den­cies or stay out all night,

sleep late, miss a train, or ar­gue with the di­rec­tor. Plenty of Room for More And if you think the mar­ket is over­sat­u­rated with char­ac­ters and there is room for no more, I would ask you to guess again. Ques­tion: how many unique an­i­mated char­ac­ters do you think the av­er­age con­sumer could name off the top of their head? Five? Ten? Twenty? Con­sid­er­ing there are some­where around 20 mil­lion busi­nesses in the United States alone, it would seem that the use of an­i­mated char­ac­ters in the mar­ket­place is clearly not over­sat­u­rated but rather un­der­uti­lized.

Pro­duc­ing qual­ity an­i­ma­tion is not cheap or easy, nor is im­ple­ment­ing an ef­fec­tive mar­ket­ing cam­paign, there­fore brand­ing with a char­ac­ter may not be fea­si­ble for just any­one. How­ever, with the evo­lu­tion of so­cial me­dia and count­less on­line out­lets for broad­cast­ing videos, shorts and com­mer­cials for cheap or free, designing and an­i­mat­ing a char­ac­ter to ef­fec­tively brand your busi­ness, prod­uct or ser­vice is much more at­tain­able than ever be­fore.

We’ve come a long way since 1877’s Quaker Oats Man and have been in­tro­duced to a myr­iad of char­ac­ters over the years, but there is still plenty of room for yours at the top. As with any worth­while en­deavor it comes with a cost, but if War­ren Buf­fet does it, it’s prob­a­bly a pretty safe in­vest­ment. Martin Gre­bing is an award-win­ning an­i­ma­tion di­rec­tor and pro­ducer who has fo­cused his ca­reer on smaller stu­dios and al­ter­na­tive mar­kets. He pro­vides pri­vate con­sult­ing and is the pres­i­dent of Fun­ny­bone An­i­ma­tion, a bou­tique stu­dio that pro­duces an­i­ma­tion for a wide range of clients and in­dus­tries. He can be reached via www.fun­ny­bonean­i­ma­tion.com.

Few events show­case the di­ver­sity and qual­ity of Euro­pean an­i­ma­tion like Car­toon Movie, the film co-pro­duc­tion fo­rum set this year for March 2-4 in Lyon, France.

Among the projects in pro­duc­tion, pro­fes­sion­als will see the first images of Richard the Stork (Knud­sen & Streu­ber Me­di­en­man­u­fak­tur) by Reza Me­mari and Toby Genkel (di­rec­tor of Ooops! Noah is gone...); and Cin­derella the Cat (MAD En­ter­tain­ment) by Ivan Cap­piello, Marino Guarnieri, Alessan­dro Rak & Dario San­sone; MAD and Alessan­dro Rak ( The Art of Hap­pi­ness) will also present A Skele­ton Story.

The film­mak­ers also re­veal sev­eral projects in con­cept such as Canaan (Tondo Films) by Jan Bultheel; Lit­tle Bas­tards (Rokyn An­i­ma­tion) by Manuel Sicilia; and Old Man Coy­ote (Cinemon Ent.) by Áron Gauder.

A record one-third of the se­lected projects tar­get an au­di­ence of teenagers or adults and tackle po­lit­i­cal or sen­si­tive sub­jects rang­ing from An­other Day of Life, about child sol­diers in An­gola; The Kh­mer Smile, about the Kh­mer Rouge in Cam­bo­dia; Fu­nan, The New Peo­ple, on the re­sis­tance in Iran; The Siren, about adop­tion; and Nay­ola, about the civil war in An­gola.

Fic­tion also skews older with Heart of Dark­ness, in­spired by Joseph Con­rad’s novel, and Mind My Gap, a psy­chotic thriller about the con­fine­ments of re­al­ity, based on the epony­mous on­line graphic novel.

Fam­ily come­dies and ad­ven­ture films for chil­dren are far from ab­sent: The Jour­ney of the Ele­phant Soli­man is based on the true story of an ele­phant taken to the King of Por­tu­gal in the 16th cen­tury; Hierony­mus is an ad­ven­ture film in­spired by the painter Hierony­mus Bosch; and Lit­tle Jules Verne tells the story of a 12-year-old boy told by his grand­fa­ther, Jules Verne.

Lit­er­a­ture and comic books con­tinue to be a sig­nif­i­cant source of in­spi­ra­tion for Euro- pean an­i­ma­tion. This year’s se­lec­tion ranges from Michel Kichka’s Sec­ond Gen­er­a­tion to Fo­li­vari’s Sam­Sam the Tini­est Su­per­hero.

To date, 55 projects from 19 Euro­pean coun­tries have been se­lected to be pitched at Car­toon Movie: 23 of them are in con­cept, 21 in devel­op­ment, eight in pro­duc­tion and two are com­pleted films.

France will be rep­re­sented by 18 projects, fol­lowed by Den­mark and Ger­many with five each; and Italy, Nether­lands and Poland with three each.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Car­toon Games will take place March 2, with meet­ings aimed to fos­ter part­ner­ships be­tween an­i­ma­tion pro­duc­ers and video game com­pa­nies.

At the same time as Car­toon Movie, 30 cin­e­mas from the GRAC net­work will present the best re­cent Euro­pean an­i­ma­tion films to the general pub­lic in Lyon from Feb. 13 to March 4.

Con­cept Sacre­bleu Pro­duc­tions (France), Aparte Film (Ro­ma­nia) Fi­nanced by the Ro­ma­nian Cen­tre of Cinema with Sacre­bleu as a main part­ner, the project is look­ing for about 400,000 euros in fund­ing at Car­toon Movie, and to ex­pose the project to sales and pre-buys.

The movers and shak­ers in the world of chil­dren’s en­ter­tain­ment will con­verge once more on Florida for the Kid­screen Sum­mit, set for Feb. 8-11 at the In­tercon­ti­nen­tal Ho­tel in Mi­ami.

The four-day event kicks off with a pre­sen­ta­tion Mon­day from Mary Cole­man, head of cre­ative devel­op­ment at Pixar, ex­plor­ing how the stu­dio’s cre­ative process drives its tech devel­op­ment process. Cole­man’s talk will cover the his­tory of the stu­dio, from its first fea­ture, Toy Story, through Inside Out and The Good Di­nosaur.

Cole­man’s pre­sen­ta­tion is part of the Then, Now and Next se­ries of pro­grams, cel­e­brat­ing Kid­screen’s 20th an­niver­sary with pre­sen­ta­tions from ex­ecs who have “grown up” in their fields of ex­per­tise over the past two decades. Other ses­sions un­der this ban­ner fo­cus on dig­i­tal-me­dia in­no­va­tion with Fred Seib­ert and the evo­lu­tion of distri­bu­tion and stu­dio build­ing with ex­ecs from DHX Me­dia and 9 Story Me­dia Group.

Os­car-win­ning ac­tress Geena Davis, founder and chair­woman of the Geena Davis In­sti­tute on Gen­der in Me­dia, will speak Tues­day on “If She Can See It, She Can Be It.” Davis will de­tail her work at the fore­front of chang­ing fe­male por­tray­als and gen­der stereo­types within the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try to dra­mat­i­cally al­ter how girls and women are re­flected in me­dia tar­get­ing chil­dren ages 11 and un­der. Ad­di­tional pro­gram­ming tracks in­clude: Brain­pick ses­sions with ex­ecs who can

tune up a pitch or find a co-pro part­ner; 30 Min­utes With ... ses­sions that give buy­ers and at­ten­dees a meet-and-greet op­por­tu­nity with ex­ecs from all as­pects of the busi­ness; And Lunch­ing With ... ses­sions of­fer sim­i­lar op­por­tu­ni­ties over — what else? – lunch.

Tues­day’s events cul­mi­nate with the Kid­screen Awards. Mul­ti­ple speed-pitch­ing ses­sions high­light Wed­nes­day’s pro­gram, while Thurs­day of­fers mas­ter classes and cul­mi­nates in a Kid­screen 20th an­niver­sary trivia chal­lenge. Other high­lights in­clude: Showrun­ning 101: A look at what the cov­eted job of showrun­ner re­ally en­tails, fea­tur­ing Peter Hast­ings, Holly Huck­ins ( Sher­riff Cal­lie’s Wild West), Tom Lynch, Julie Stall (Port­fo­lio En­ter­tain­ment) and Na­dine van der Velde (PopSkull). The View from Over the Top: A look at the im­pact of OTT video ser­vices on kids en­ter­tain­ment by Christo­pher Vollmer, part­ner with PwC’s Strat­egy&, will share his per­spec­tive and present pro­pri­etary re­search on user be­hav­ior. Im­mer­sive VR Sto­ry­telling: A new ap­proach to con­tent pro­duc­tion: A look into the emerg­ing art, tech and com­merce of telling sto­ries in VR, with Jaunt Stu­dios

pres­i­dent Cliff Plumer. How to Pro­gram a YouTube Chan­nel: A panel of suc­cess­ful YouTu­bers will out­line unique con­tent-cre­ation and pro­gram­ming strate­gies for the plat­form, and as­sess cur­rent chal­lenges, busi­ness mod­els and op­por­tu­ni­ties. Sto­ry­telling Show­down: Board Artists Ver­sus Writ­ers: De­bat­ing these ap­proaches to an­i­ma­tion pro­duc­tion are Frank Fal­cone (Guru Stu­dio), Tom McGil­lis (Fresh TV), Dar­ragh O’Con­nell (Brown Bag Films), Este­ban Valdez (Echo Bridge Pic­tures). And of course, each day is capped with mul­ti­ple events of­fer­ing the chance to mix and min­gle with at­ten­dees over a cock­tail. [

Geena Davis

Mary Cole­man

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