CFM marketing PR

Animation Can Tell a Story and Tug a Heartstring

Debate rages over whether organizations plunging into controversial issues are clever-smart or irrevocably dumb. The Salvation Army shows you can enter the great divide, make your point and earn respect from all sides.

Debate rages over whether organizations plunging into controversial issues are clever-smart or irrevocably dumb. The Salvation Army shows you can enter the great divide, make your point and earn respect from all sides.

The red kettle and ringing bell of The Salvation Army are a holiday staple. Now the venerable organization is featuring heart-touching animated videos that show how an ounce of empathy can generate a ton of good. 

The Fight for Good” campaign tells the stories of people facing hunger, homelessness and financial distress through three characters – Chloe, Gus and Emma. The Richards Group, which created the video campaigns, say they are intended to shed light on the battles faced by people who receive assistance from The Salvation Army and how contributions help. The goal is compassion, not guilt.

Animation is a perfect medium for treading that fine line between empathy and guilt and for somehow making uncomfortable topics more comfortable. Computer-generated animation has made the medium even more evocative and uncannily realistic.

However, the unique artistic DNA for animation is its ability to tell imaginative stories that would be harder or even impossible to convey in print or live video. For example, Pixar’s award-winning animated movie Coco transports viewers into the Land of the Dead on Dia de los Muertos as a 12-year-old boy struggles to return to the land of the living. The movie was totally charming, whereas a film version may have come across as gimmicky or scary.

The Salvation Army, which has been around since the mid-1800s and still clings to its tradition of military-style uniforms for its bell-ringing “officers,” saw in animated videos an opportunity for a fresh take on its mission. Animation helped to make the age-old problem of people in need seem contemporary by telling contemporary, believable stories.

“We’ve used illustrative elements throughout the main advertising to convey the reality and desperation of need without the guilt-inducing face of it,” the Dallas-based advertising agency told AdWeek. “Through this visual vehicle we can show the harsh struggles of homelessness, child poverty and unemployment in a more approachable way.”

CFM strategic partner Cappelli Miles has created an eye-grabbing – and thought-provoking – 30-second animated video for OregonSaves that plants the idea people should start saving for their retirement sooner than later. It is hard to tell a complicated story in 30 heartwarming seconds, but animation can make it easier. Animation can travel back in time, create adorable characters that say anything you want and present perspectives that would defy drones.

Animated videos can be spendy because of the immense amount of work required to create them. Regardless of cost, the point of video content is to get noticed and be remembered, which animation can deliver, making it cost-effective for reaching eyeballs and tugging heartstrings.

Animation isn’t the answer for every marketing challenge, but it should be on the table as an option, just like illustration as an alternative to photography for print projects. Measure choices by their impact on your intended audience.

The Salvation Army made that calculation and chose animation for its “The Fight for Good” campaign, which tells a visually compelling story fit for holiday consumption.