Humble Beginnings To Global Domination – A Brief History Of Animation In Advertising

Think back to your favourite cereals from when you were young; you’ll probably remember the animated characters from the packaging.

From Tony the Tiger to Coco the monkey, it’s not by chance that most of your childhood favourites had an animated ‘spokesperson’.

Animation provides a great visual impact while leaving lasting memories, which is why it makes an excellent resource for marketing and advertising!

How Did We Get Here?

From the earliest cave drawings to painted characters, animation has always been an extension of imagination.

In 1603, technology began to play a part with the invention of the magic lantern – which was an early type of image projector. Whilst this was a breakthrough in projected animation, it wasn’t until the Victorian era and the discovery of the persistence of vision theory that moving pictures began to make their mark.

The persistence of vision theory is the idea that seeing still images in rapid succession gives the illusion that they are moving – and it was this that allowed artists of the time to begin playing around with animation.

In 1832, Joseph Plateau created the Fantascope; a simple optical illusion of images positioned around a cardboard disc. When spun, the drawings appeared to come to life!

This same process was adapted to film as early as 1906 with the first short silent animated cartoon, titled Humorous Phases of Funny Faces

Over the next 20 years, animation became a regular feature in cinemas, and eager artists all over the world started to experiment with the possibilities it offered.

The Rise Of Disney

Fast forward to 1928, where a well-known mouse kicked off what is known as the Golden Age of Animation. Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie was one of the first animations to include sound, and it projected Walt Disney to the forefront of the era.

It was the success of these hand drawn animations that led Walt Disney to lend his animations to the war effort. In 1941, Walt Disney began to work with the US Army, creating propaganda films for the public, and training and education films for the troops.

The use of animation, as opposed to live action, built morale and allowed people to vent their frustrations through laughter and crude humour. World War II changed the possibilities for animation, pushing colourful characters to the forefront of advertising.

Disney in particular started using his characters to advertise all sorts of things, generating revenue and recognition for his brand. From toys and games to soap and kitchenware – even a toilet brush holder!

Today, Disney characters can be seen everywhere. Mickey Mouse and other characters became household names just as much as Walt Disney himself.

With more and more families purchasing TVs, the networks started using advertising as a way of funding their programming. Now, using animation in advertising became commonplace.

Fast forward to 1995, when a Space Ranger landed looking for intelligent life.

Toy story was the first fully computer-animated feature film, and it changed the face of animation forever. CGI had been in development since the 1960s, evolving from educational videos and graphics, to the annoying Paperclip that was determined to help you with your Word Documents.

Toy Story showcased what could be achieved with regards to CGI in feature films, and the animation world took note.

Marketing campaigns using computer generated characters started popping up everywhere, with each trying to push the boundaries of what came before.

CGI Advertising WORKS

Turn on your TV today and you’ll see animated M&Ms, a mobster panda selling ‘bis-quits’, and even well-established characters like Wallace and Gromit promoting sofas.

Creating a memorable character that people can associate with your product is key. By fostering an emotional connection with their audiences, successful mascots have the power to propel a brand to the forefront of their industry, sometimes proving so popular that companies can even generate merchandise!

For example, Comparethemarket was founded in 2006, but it wasn’t until they introduced their Meerkat campaign in 2009 that they quickly became one of the leading comparison websites.

One ‘simples’ advert later, which asked the public not to confuse ‘Market’ with ‘Meerkat’, and their brand recognition skyrocketed.

Now, Aleksandr the Meerkat has been joined by various members of his family – generating plush collectable toys for those who choose to use their website. In fact, when Baby Oleg was introduced, he became a must have toy.

Now, that one little Meerkat even has a biography!

Far from the Saturday morning cartoons of our childhood, animation is a leading factor in successful companies.

In an era of fast-paced social media and a constantly shifting commercial environment, standing out from the crowd is essential, and using an animated character in your promotional campaigns can be the difference between someone stopping to look at your advert, website, or promotional material, or simply going right past it.

Animation has come a long way since the Fantascope.

New technologies are being developed all the time, but the premise is much the same. Whether it’s a series of still images being flipped through a book, or a sequence of frames on a computer – the only limit to animation is your imagination!

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