Op-Ed: Has the animated demo video jumped the shark?

Posted Mar 25, 2014 by Mark Evans
For many start-ups, animated explainer video have become par for the course. But have they become boring, less effective and blasé?
In working with start-up clients, one of the most common marketing vehicles is the animated explainer video.
It's a 90-second or so creature that follows a straightforward formula: start with a problem, pose the question about whether there should be a better way to do something, and then talk about the start-up's product or service.
When animated videos entered the start-up realm a few years ago, they were well-received because they had an edu-tainment quality.
They were a simple and quick way to tell attention-short customers about a product. And they could be created relatively quickly and inexpensively. In short, start-ups loved them because it was easy marketing that had good shelf life and return on investment.
Today, however, the animated video seems to be getting tired. The novelty has definitely worn off, which means they have less of an impact unless there's a creative twist. While consumers are still engaged, there is far less excitement or interest.
As much as I have created more than my fair share of scripts for animated videos, I think they have jumped the shark. In other words, their use an effective marketing medium has lost its mojo.
So if the animated video has become passé, what will replace it?
Let's start with the core premise of the explainer video: it needs to educate and entertain, while quickly giving people a sense of what a product does and the value it delivers.
But I think start-ups need to become more sophisticated and creative. Rather than using animation to carry the day, they need to consider other ways to tell a story.
For example, start-ups could look at life-action videos as a way to deliver information and provide a better sense of a start-up's personality.
Look at the success enjoyed by Dollar Shave Club, which saw its live-action video go viral. The video resonated because it went against the grain. It was entertaining and educational but showed panache, personality and pizazz (aka the P's).
One of the big issues when it comes to live-action video is the production time and cost, but these days live-action videos can be done fairly economically.
Another thing for start-ups to consider is how to use video to showcase their products.
While it's important tell customers what your product does and the benefits delivered, it's also valuable to show them what your products looks like. Customers need to get a feel for how it works and how they would use it.
This is where creativity is important when making a video. To work well, a video should do more than display screen captures or live demos.
In an ideal world, a start-up should display its product but do so in a way that educates and entertains. It could mean combining live-action and animation, or using special effects to put the spotlight on interesting features.
In other words, start-ups need to consider different creative approaches to make their explains videos effective and punchy.
This is not to suggest the animated video is dead or has no value. Rather, start-ups that want to separate themselves from the crowd need to explore different ways to use video to tell their stories.
The reality is even the most shiny and new things get dull, par for the course and simply part of the landscape after awhile - be it blogging, social media, content marketing or animated videos.
As a result, it's important to explore new ideas and options to stay fresh and ahead of the pack. If you're a startup, now is the time to challenge yourself to look beyond the animated video.
More: A good example of a startup using live-action video is Airbnb:
Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, which helps startups tell better stories (aka marketing). Check out his startup marketing blog, as well as his weekly startup newsletter.