With or without characters? That is the question!

by Adam Hayes on 14 August 2013
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When making an animated video, one of the first decisions you'll have to make is whether or not to include characters.

With, or without characters? It almost sounds like an incidental consideration, but in truth, this tiny decision makes for two entirely different styles of animated video!

Both approaches have their strengths, so we thought we'd give you a run-down of our experiences working with both. Hopefully this will help you make the right decision when it comes to working on your own video. Enjoy!

A matter of perspective
What do you want your video to do? This is such a crucial consideration in deciding whether to use characters!

If you're looking to tell a story from the customers perspective, striking an emotional chord with your viewer, we reckon characters are the way to go.

If you'd prefer to let the information speak for itself, and get across compelling numbers and statistics, then a video without characters might be the most effective approach.

The story approach -- WITH characters
Animated videos with characters are absolutely GREAT at telling stories, and they tend to feature the perspective of your target customer.

Every video we work on has its own unique flavor, but the most successful character videos follow a very similar pattern.

  • They introduce a character -- this person should be the same age, gender, demographic, profession, etc. as the target audience, and the viewer should immediately relate to them.
  • They establish the character's difficulty. Their life sucks right now because they don't have your product, meaning they are wasting so much time and energy that they really don't need to. At this point, the audience identifies with the viewer even more -- after all, they have this problem too!
  • They introduce your product. Suddenly the character's world seems much better...they're delighted at the time they've freed up, and by how uncomplicated their life has now become!
  • They go through a couple of key features and benefits. As with any other video, you want to keep it short, sweet and punchy, so there's no need to run through your entire sales pitch. Just the main 2 or 3 selling points should be enough.
  • They finish with a clear call-to-action which tells the viewer how they can buy your product...and change their life too!
  • This is personal!
  • As you can see, the main strength of this approach is that it is personal. There aren't many methods that allow you to so directly isolate your target market and tell a story from their point-of-view. Charts, graphs, icons and screen capture footage are great -- but for creating viewer empathy, nothing is as effective as the trusty animated character.

See a good example of this structure in the video we created for Tommys Yard below:


Entertainment = engagement
Another plus point to using characters is simply that they inject a little bit more fun into your video than if you left them out. We know you aren't aiming to win Golden Globes with your animated video here, but, like it or not, you're on the internet so you're competing against a hell of a lot of entertaining stuff (and some not-so-entertaining stuff!). Characters can add a little bit of fun to videos if you're looking to make a video that entertains and amuses -- after all, they can fall downstairs, explode and pretty much everything in between!

What can I do without characters?
So, that's a pretty ringing endorsement of using characters, right? Why would you possibly consider not using them? Well, the good news is you can still achieve a GREAT video without using characters...you just need to consider your approach!

Information overload!
If you're planning a video with the intention of getting across lots and lots of information, then 'Animated without Characters' is a great way to do it! Clearly, characters are great at establishing viewer empathy, but if you have lots of information to convey characters may not be the best way to do it. It's much more effective in this instance to use a combination of fonts and flat graphics to bring your message to life, and make it engaging for the viewer.

Get creative with text Many of the most effective Animated without Characters videos we've produced have utilised the power of text. We're not talking static sentences in Times New Roman -- our team are great at getting creative and using text to convey powerful, dynamic ideas. Words can be arranged cleverly into a whole host of shapes and patterns. Creating the right visual emphasis on the points being made in your voiceover can create a powerful impression on the viewer, as your message can be both seen and heard. See a good example of this in the video we created for PageWoo below:

What makes a character anyway?
If your budget doesn't quite extend to our Animated with Characters package, but you still want to include a personal element to your video, worry not; there are a few ways to do this within the scope of an Animated video without Characters! We can use flat icons -- or Picons as we call them -- which are simple head-and-shoulder representations of your customers. We can also use basic 'stick-man' characters as per the below example which we produced for our friends at The Good Jobs:

Why are icons and stick-people classed as part of the Animated without Characters package, you may be wondering? Very simply, it's because they generally perform only very basic movements, and the absence of facial features means we don't have to animate things like speech, changing emotions, and so on.

You'll also find that icons and stick-people tend to appear on simple plain backgrounds, as opposed to animated characters, which typically require the creation of scenery.

Versatile video
Perhaps the greatest thing about an Animated video without Characters is that it's so versatile...a quick look at the videos on our Examples page gives you a flavour of just how versatile! You can make a video about nearly anything using this approach, making your message fun, visually stimulating and engaging!

Not sure which way to go? Speak to us!
With over 500 videos behind us, we've chatted to hundreds of people just like you, who knew they wanted a video, but needed a little help to make it a reality.

Our friendly team is always on hand to discuss your video needs and help you reach the right decision for your video! ☺

Video Marketing

Adam Hayes

Written by Adam Hayes

Hey - I'm Adam, Content Manager here at Wyzowl. I'm lucky enough to write words and tell stories for a living. I work with a weird and wonderful bunch of people who share my passion for digital marketing, brand storytelling and, of course, Mario Kart.