Animation or Live Action VideoSeldom do animation and “live action” video blend as seamlessly as in the 80’s video by A-Ha “Take On Me”. Would it have been as effective with just real actors or all animation? Probably not. However in business there are specific instances where one or the other is the best solution to get your message communicated clearly.

Imagine that you were going to create a video for a company that manufactured gear assemblies primarily marketed to engineers. Rather than show the gear assembly in action using slow motion filming or animation, you instead choose to have the CEO fumble through showing how the gear assembly works by moving it around in his hands. Now add that the CEO doesn’t exactly have the most dynamic personality for video. Doesn’t sound like a good fit does it? If you were an engineer considering this gear assembly, would you rather see it in action or watch someone move it by hand completely removed from the environment that it would be operating in?

There is a little truth in the above scenario. We had consulted with the company’s marketing agency who pitched this idea and we adamantly advised both the company and the marketing agency against doing this. Thankfully this didn’t come to fruition as the clumsy result could have been a complete waste of the company’s money and worse yet – unusable. The truth is live action film and animation both have their strengths to convey very diverse messages and achieve different objectives.

Live Action

Film or Live action is great for communicating sentiment. One of it’s greatest strengths is forming a bond between the viewer and the person onscreen. When you have someone onscreen who has a captivating personality whether that be the CEO, a charismatic engineer or a testimonial from one of your brand advocates, that passion can easily be sensed and felt by the viewer. If that personal energy is palpable in the video, that can be a great way to personalize a company. Some great ways to use film include:

  • Non-profit organizations: If you have a non-profit organization for children, wouldn’t you want to show how those children are helped by the organization? Live action does a great job of “tugging at the heart and purse strings” for online viewers. Using video with email is also a great way to increase donations for non-profits.
  • Testimonials: How many times do you see a “testimonials” link on a website and then you click there and maybe read a few of them. You never read them all though, do you? Now imagine how powerful those testimonials would be if they were videos of real customers sprinkled throughout your site. It’s not only more engaging to the viewer but it puts a face to a testimonial which makes what they are saying more believable to the viewer.
  • Company profiles: Putting a face and a personality to a company can help begin building that relationship between the viewer of your video to hopefully get them to become a future customer. Many people immediately think CEO, but that may not be the case. If you have a passionate customer service representative or a product engineer they may “speak” more to your audience than the CEO might. Just make sure whoever you choose has “camera presence” – speaking clearly and coming across honestly.
  • Physical products: If you are in an industry where the viewer is buying a physical end product, showing the finished product in action will boost viewer engagement and their comfort level with the product. Products like this include things like  automobiles, showcasing real estate properties or high end decorative ceramics. You can still animate segments, such as how that automobile’s engine is designed to be more fuel efficient, but when someone is researching a product, they want to see the finished product in action.


One of animations greatest strengths is it’s flexibility. If you wanted to film your CEO screaming from the mountaintop you’d have to hire film crews, helicopter units and loads of sherpas to bring all that film gear up the mountain. With animation you can animate that scene for a fraction of the cost. Your imagination is your only limitation. Animated marketing videos are also a fantastic way to communicate a message that may be difficult to explain other than by using conceptual animation. Some great ways to use animation in a marketing environment include:

  • Software Services: Software as a Service (or SaaS) are typically very hard to communicate what they do with live people on camera; it’s almost always animation. This is particularly true because most software solves a problem or makes a task easier. Without illustrating an example of a problem solved by the software, chances are the viewer isn’t going to understand how it works.
  • Branding: If your goal is to create a lasting impression while communicating what your company does with visual appeal, then there are few ways that are more effective than animation. With an animation you can get creative with your messaging but still keep all of the brand logo colors, fonts and “look” of the brand completely consistent with all of your other marketing including your email marketing.
  • Greater Product Understanding: With animation you can get down to a granular level of explanation of a product that is very difficult to do with live action. People also prefer to learn through audio/visual methods so if they have the choice between reading a PDF document of the product specs or watching a short video that does the same thing. 99% of the time they will choose the video.
  • The Fun Factor: Let’s face it…animation can be hilarious. Do you want to make a super hero fighting against banner ad wielding flying monkeys? You can do that with animation. When a viewer is laughing and having fun they are more receptive to retaining that information and possibly sharing it with family or friends. That sharing is the fuel that increases your chances of the video possibly going viral.


What type of video is best for your business? The answer is  it depends on what you are looking to communicate as both animation and live action video have their own individual strengths. Your first step is to clearly identify your strategy and what the goal of your video is even before getting started. So what’s the goal of your web video – are you looking to build a personal connection between the viewer and the person onscreen or to communicate a complex message or service that may be more difficult to explain? Now go watch the A-Ha video, you know you want to.



Eric Guerin is the founder of Adelie Studios. He chooses to use his creative powers for good and not evil by helping businesses to better market themselves using animated marketing videos. He can easily be bribed with coffee. Read more of Eric’s posts