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Creating Effective and Engaging Branded Content: Insights from Award-winning Animation Director and Founder of Dancing Line Productions, Anik Rosenblum
- Friday, May. 12, 2023
We had the opportunity to speak with the founder of Dancing Line Productions and an award-winning animation director, Anik Rosenblum. Dancing Line Productions has created lively hand-crafted animation for numerous TV commercials and promotional, educational, and music videos for global clients such as General Motors, Tim Hortons, BMS, Pfizer, and TED-Ed. The studio employs a variety of styles and 2D animation techniques with an emphasis on fluid and natural movement. Their projects are directed by Rosenblum with additional highly skilled animators, motion graphics artists, and illustrators brought on as needed.
Read on to learn more about how Dancing Line Productions creates effective and engaging branded content, how they balance creativity with business objectives, and some of their most successful campaigns.
How does Dancing Line Productions approach creating effective and engaging branded content for clients, and what strategies have worked best for you in the past?
Each project and client is different, so first, we focus on learning about the brand, understanding its unique personality, what kind of message we need to deliver, and whom it’s meant to reach.
Our main goal is to effectively communicate their message by touching people’s hearts. The ability to evoke the right emotion is at the core of a successful campaign.
All the elements of our animation, from design to sound to expressive movement, are designed to work together in harmony to convey the desired spirit and effectively deliver the message.
Can you tell us about your experience working with global clients and creating content that resonates with diverse audiences?
We have worked with a variety of clients and industries, including Food and Beverage (Tim Horton’s, Crofter’s Organic), Financial/Insurance (Canada Protection Plan, Physicians Mutual), Automotive (General Motors), Healthcare (Virginia Hospital Center, BMS, Pfizer), Educational (TED-Ed, Monroe College, MindBeacon), and non-profit/govt. organizations (The American Psychological Association, The Govt. of British Columbia, WorkSafeBC).
People universally respond to warmth, humour, and relatable life situations. We try to give our characters unique personalities and always treat them with love and compassion, and that tends to resonate with broad audiences.
How do you balance creativity and business objectives when creating content, and what advice would you give to others trying to find that balance?
There is no contradiction between those two, creativity is used to achieve the client’s business objectives. Ultimately, we are tasked with delivering a message via creative visual means.
It’s a challenge, in a good way! We try to come up with a concept (within the given parameters) that would take full advantage of animation as a medium to result in an engaging and memorable viewing experience.
Of course, clients, not being animation experts, may not always see what makes animation unique, sometimes having pre-conceptions based on their understanding of the live-action or slide presentation approach.
Essentially, the language of animation is movement, so we provide suggestions on how to express the point we are making through movement rather than just relying on dialogue and graphics.
We advise clients to avoid static scenes and suggest ways to make the commercial flow organically and identify opportunities to make the animation shine.
Most effective animated commercials have their message expressed through movement, showing rather than telling. Animation can visually express a wide range of ideas such as Freedom, Peace, Connection, Resolution, etc.
Our advice to clients when producing animated content is to involve the animation director early in the process. If your script is locked by the time you bring an animator on board - there is only so much they can do.
Your return on investment will be so much higher if you consult the artist first at the concept development stage on how to take full advantage of animation as a medium.
Our advice to animators/studios is to try to educate their clients on the unique strengths of animation. If it's not longer possible to adjust the concept we try to add little touches and seek opportunities to inject some life and personality into the project to maximize its reach and appeal.
Can you share some of the most successful campaigns or projects you have worked on and what made them so effective?
One of the most rewarding projects was our animated TV campaign for Canada Protection Plan. We were tasked to design a new mascot character for the brand – an appealing approachable character who would embody the company’s tagline “Simply, peace of mind”.
We produced 5 x 60 sec TV spots with this character in English and French aired nationwide for a number of years.
The commercials gained enormous popularity, especially among small kids. The YouTube versions were flooded with parents’ comments describing their children’s delight and fascination with the spots, many actively seeking out the commercials online to keep their kids happy. We got requests for stuffy toys and more episodes! Although kids were not necessarily our target audience, their engagement created positive vibes for their parents and grandparents.
The company reported significant growth in brand awareness and engagement. They asked us to provide designs for the characters to be made into giant floats to participate in the Toronto Santa Claus parade for two consecutive years. It was a pleasure to work with the client and to experience such warm feedback from the audience.
We also really enjoyed working with Tim Horton’s who asked us to come up with creative animation to introduce their new line of gourmet donuts.
The video was to be played on a loop on their new Innovation Cafe opening in downtown Toronto on a big wall screen.
They chose one of the ideas we pitched: a series of animated vignettes where various characters interact with donuts in different relatable situations.
After the video was launched the client let us know that due to its success, it will also be screened in multiple restaurant locations around the world, attesting to the universal appeal of character-driven relationship-themed approach vs. just showcasing a product.
With so many different forms of advertising and marketing, how do you determine which type of content is best suited for a particular client or campaign?
We specialize in 2D character animation, which can be more suited for some brands or messages than others.
Although animation is a very versatile medium able to tackle both light-hearted and serious subjects, it's not necessarily always right for the project.
Here are a few areas it's especially well suited for:
- Awkward subjects, where you want to avoid the explicit portrayal of the thing, but still want to show the human aspect of it.
For example, we are working with a UK-based company offering solutions for breast asymmetry. They wanted to be a little tongue-in-cheek without being disrespectful to women with this challenge.
It's much easier to find creative ways to tackle this subject in animation than live-action.
- Sad subjects (depression, illness, death): For example, Farewill - a UK company dealing with wills and funerals has successfully embraced animation in their branding.
A live-action commercial on this subject would be too bleak and emotionally taxing, but well-executed animation that boils things down to human connection is really a pleasure to watch and shows the company in a very warm and positive way.
- Boring subjects (insurance, accounting, legal), or rather subjects that need a bit extra excitement to present in an engaging way.
- Complicated subjects (technology, science) that could use a bit of visual support to make them more fun and easy to understand.
- Abstract subjects (philosophy, self-development) animation offers extreme flexibility in portraying symbolic, hypothetical, and metaphoric concepts.
- Kids/family - no need to explain.
What do you see as the future of advertising and marketing, and how is Dancing Line Productions preparing for it?
The talk of the day is AI and how it's going the big next thing. While it can definitely be a powerful tool for producing striking visuals and impressive effects, it can't compete with being human.
To create a powerful message that has an emotional impact we have to be able to connect on a human level. Charm is not something that can be dissected and programmed, it's based on human connection, recognition of shared experiences, warmth, compassion, a person's unique and appealing ways to respond to life situations.
So our "strategy", rather than becoming more technological is to be even more fundamentally human. We need to focus on that warm connection when communicating a message, it should be heartfelt and sincere.
The way that animation can strip things down to the essentials, use visual metaphors, show personality, and create intimacy cannot be replicated by technology.
Our hand-crafted, humanly imperfect, frame-by-frame drawn animation may not always be as "cool" as the latest trend but it will always be "warm".
How do you work with clients to ensure their vision and goals are achieved through your creative process?
First, listen and ask questions. Second, do some research: about the brand, and the industry, and gather some visual references. Then provide a treatment proposal that includes a verbal description of our approach and a few design frames, sometimes with a few alternative options.
After the approach is defined, we create an animatic – a storyboard presented in video format and timed to audio (voice narration/music). If needed, we provide VO casting/recording and music search and licensing.
The animatic helps clients to visualize how the animation will unfold and gives them an opportunity to provide comments and ask for changes.
Once it’s finalized, we produce the animation. With regular work-in-progress updates, we ensure that the animation is shaping up as per the client’s expectations to minimize the changes in the end.
Keep up to date on all things Dancing Line Production via their website.