Keeping It Real in Advertising Creative

When it comes to selecting a message source to deliver an advertising message, there are compelling reasons to consider using animated characters instead of real people. An animated spokesperson will not be difficult to deal with in contract negotiations, will not get arrested or do anything to embarrass a brand, and it will not turn off audiences with annoying behaviors or mannerisms. These traits of animated spokespersons, coupled with their increased presence in ads, seem to make the decision to use animation instead of live action an easy one to make.

But, before you replace people with characters, check out a recent Nielsen study of the impact of animation on consumer response to ads. A comparison of animated versus live action executions found that brand recall was 22% higher for ads using live action. Further comparisons across demographic groups found that the difference in brand recall for live action ads was higher for women (+27%) than for men (+17%) and that consumers aged 35-49 had higher recall of live action ads (+24%) than 13-35 year-olds (+11%). While overall results suggest the impact of live action ads is greater, one exception was that animation execution had 28% higher brand recall for ads for food ingredients and seasoning.

Results of the Nielsen study beg the question “why?” The answer may not be all that complicated. Consumers connect with brands with which they perceive similarity and thus can be influenced by evidence that a brand is “like me.” Which creative execution can get that point across more effectively? Using real people, of course. Granted, we are not always going to identify with characters in ads (there are many characters that we do not want to identify with!). However, for ads using a problem-solution scenario or that attempt to resonate with consumers on an emotional level, having real people as the message source seems to get through to consumers more effectively than animated characters.

Center for Media Research - "Animation or Actors"