Does Your Business Have Character?
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. [