Top Ten Animated Explainer Videos

Animated Explainer Videos are used to explain abstract concepts and complex ideas. 

The term ‘explainer video’ has been used in reference to a wide variety of video types and styles. We’re defining explainer videos as those videos that employ animation to explain abstract concepts or complex ideas that would otherwise be difficult to illustrate with live-action video.

I’m not sure if live-action explainer videos are really even ‘a thing.’

In 2004, a New York-based company called 2-minute explainer, began creating high quality animated videos to illustrate complex business ideas for their corporate clients.  Then, in 2007, Lee LeFever created a popular series of “In Plain English” videos that were viewed by millions on YouTube. The charm of LeFever’s videos was that they were both conceptually and stylistically very simple and yet they were very successful in explaining complex new ideas. (You can thank Lee every time you hear a video starting with the phrase of ‘Meet Bob…”)

Fast forward to today where hundreds of styles, formats and technologies are employed to create animated explainer videos: White Board Drawings, 2D, 3D, Stop Motion animation, Screencasts, Typography – the styles and techniques are endless.

The animated video production process has been automated online by companies such as goAnimate and Powtoon. The quality of these new web-based tools is impressive. Just like the ubiquity of high quality cameras is shifting the value in the video production field, access to powerful animation tools is also shifting the value in animation back to where it always belonged – concept and writing.

There are millions of animated explainer videos being created every year for business and that number is increasing dramatically. Most of these are low-budget, low-quality videos that few people will ever watch.  The reason they are not watched has little to do with the quality of the animation.

Animated Explainer Videos Defined
An animated explainer video is used to explain complex ideas and to illustrate abstract concepts.

Animated explainer videos are not necessarily cheaper or more expensive to produce than live-action videos. You can spend $200 or $200,000 on a live-action video and you can spend that same amount on an animated explainer video. You get what you pay for.

Remember, the bigger the problem your product solves, the bigger the reward will be if you build a great animated explainer video.

Here’s what matters in the development of an animated Explainer Video:

  1. The concept and script. Assuming that you’ve chosen animation for a good reason then the first thing you need to do is develop a concept for the video and a script. At this point the animation style is irrelevant. Anything you conceive of can be animated – that’s the beauty of animation. Filming twenty, blue hippopotami rollerblading down a busy street would be difficult to do. Animating this same scene can be done cheaply or at great cost depending on your budget (quality may vary…). If you don’t have a proper concept and script for your video then it won’t really matter what style of animation you employ.
  2. Choose an animation style that best suits your concept and script. Choose your animation style carefully after you’ve developed your concept and script. If you contact a whiteboard video company before you start your project, they’re probably going to recommend whiteboard video as the best approach. It may be, but there are more animation styles and techniques available than you can shake a stick at. (I have no idea what that means…)
  3. Create a storyboard. Nowhere is a storyboard more important than in animation. This is where you choose the key elements and style of how you are going to illustrate each scene. A storyboard is the only way to ensure you know what you’re going to get before production begins. This step could save you thousands of dollars. The storyboard should include keyframe images showing you the style and the content for each scene. (If your animation company tells you they don’t normally do this then you might be in for a surprise at some point in the production process.)
  4. Choose voice, music and sound effects carefully. These are all critical elements that should be part of your approval process as a client. These are just as important as the animation style of the video. (Some would say they are more important.) You don’t have to settle on the first upbeat ukulele track you are presented with. Sound effects can be very important as they can add depth and richness to the overall presentation. You should also ask to hear different V/O options. A good voice-over delivery can easily elevate your video from good to great.
  5. Ensure you have draft approval for various stages of production. The opportunity for surprise and disappointment is much greater in animation than it is with live action. There’s only so much you can do with a shot described as,’ Wide angle of Bob getting into car’. You’d be surprised at how many different ways this same scene could be interpreted by an animator.

 

Here are our Top Ten Animated Explainer Videos:


Brand: Freshdesk {San Francisco, USA}
Production Company: Unknown.

This video is one of the best we’ve seen, here’s why:

  • The smartest line in the entire video is the first one: ‘As someone in charge of customer service...’ The best thing you can do in a video is establish exactly who your audience is right away. This is often ignored or ‘blurred’ in marketing video because businesses want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible which often results in a B2N (business to nobody) video.
  • Clearly, at 1.5 million views this video has been very successful. The animation style is engaging, the message is simple and clear, and the concepts used to illustrate problems and solutions are very well done.
  • The audio is really good in this video. The voice-over style suits the video well and the change in music, supporting the ‘problem’ then changing to underscore the ‘solution’, is nicely done. The audio effects were very good quality and integrated nicely with the animation.
  • Nice use of humour in the animations. Succeeding with humour requires a deft touch.
  • The pace of the video is one of the key reasons it has experienced so many views and such good engagement. The video starts fast, keeps you engaged, moves quickly and is finished before you know it.
  • This would be a very smart animated explainer video to emulate.

Brand: Mint  {New York City, USA}
Creative Agency: Unknown

The writing in the video is excellent.

  • This video addresses some relatively complex problems with solutions that are explained with an engaging and powerful simplicity.
  • The video tells you only what you need to hear: I.e. ‘Mint Uses Bank-Level Security.” Another company might have explained in greater detail how their encryption technology worked or a how their security infrastructure was best-in-class. Sometimes what you leave out is just as important as what you include.
  • There is a lot of ground covered in this video. I didn’t count but there are probably ten different benefits being highlighted here. That’s unusual for an explainer video and generally not recommended but, in this case, I think it worked.
  • The video quickly introduces ‘the problem’ and then promises something “better, easier and smarter”. Who isn’t going to invest another minute to find out if the company can deliver on this promise?
  • Good call to action at the end to let the viewer know they can, “Sign up and get started with Mint in less than 5 minutes”.

Brand: Crazy Egg {San Francisco, USA}
Production Company: Demoduck

Videos don’t have to have huge production values if the message is clear and well delivered.

  • Crazy Egg claims that this one targeted video generated over one quarter of a million dollars in new revenue each year. That’s impressive.
  •  This video offers one of the most complete sales presentations in an explainer video.  It covers all of these steps in the sales process:1.  It introduces the product in clear and simple terms.
    2. It clearly identifies the main points that the product solves.
    3. It  shows you the consequences of the problems. Consequences of a problem             are like benefits of a feature – problems are abstract ideas, consequences are real.
    4. The video then identifies the features of the product and associates the benefits         of those features – that’s important.
    5. It takes time to transition to the call to action summarizing why the product will         solve your business problem. Then it makes a clear call to action.
    6. The video introduces an objection handling element (which is uncommon in these      videos) that helps deal with the most common objections people might have                about the product. If you can get these objections out of the way now, you’re that      much closer to the viewer taking action.
    7. Finally the video provides ‘business proof’ by showing which customers have               benefited from the product.
  • Very well put together with just the right amount of visual humour to make you comfortable with the video.

Brand: Promodo {Kiev Ukraine, USA} 
Production Company: Skilz.tv

Great graphics that transition effectively between scenes.

  • The graphic elements in this video are handled very well. Instead of rough cuts between each idea the studio took the time to transition between shots. If you can afford this level of production quality, it’s worth the money because these visual transitions help move the viewer through the entire presentation.
  • We also liked the amorphous and fluid element of many of the animations. This is important because we’re already starting to experience ‘explainer blindness’ as many of the videos we see today all seem like a marginally different version of one we saw yesterday.  You need to find a way to make a unique video.
  • It’s really no different than with live action video. Everyone can shoot decent quality footage so you’d better up your game visually or you’re not going to get noticed.

Brand: Padmapper {San Francisco, USA}
Production Company: Unknown

Common Craft outsources south of the border.

  • There is something very charming about this video. Not sure if it’s the accordion music bed, the weird background sound effects, the fact that the V/O reminds me of Pedro (Napolean’s buddy..). This video is fun to watch.
  • Having just said it’s important to up your game with really solid animations… that’s not an absolute. Great style beats great graphics.
  • Style is a hard thing to pin down but it basically means presenting a complete package – visual and audio and writing –  that all come together in an engaging way. This video has a lot of style, and that’s very hard to do well.
  • ‘…and that location will be displayed on a big, honkin’ map…’ isn’t a line that you’d hear on many explainer videos and yet, there it is.  It works.
  • When you decide on the tagline, ‘Making apartment hunting suck less’ you know you’re already committed so… might as well just embrace it.
  • Nicely done.

Brand: Orbyt {Madrid, Spain}
Production Company: http://binalogue.com

Rich, professional-looking animations make this video a winner.

  • Orbyt is an app that works as a digital newsstand allowing you to access and share a vast range of publications and media.
  • We’re all overwhelmed with media choices. The Orbyt video makes it clear that there is an easier solution to help you organize all of your media in one spot.
  • The graphic style is very fluid. The animations transition nicely from scene to scene and the video does a great job at showing you the value of the product.
  • Rich and engaging animations really elevate this video.


Brand: That Tutor Guy {San Francisco, US}
Production Company: Unknown

Simple animation, great V/O and a well-written script.

  • The popularity of this video could be an indictment of the current state of education.  At around 4 million views for this video there must be a lot of students struggling with math.
  • If you strip this video back to it’s core elements, it’s the script and the narrator’s voice that really make this video work. Choice of V/O is really important and yet it’s often an afterthought for many businesses. Not only do you need to choose a voice that will resonate with your audience, you also need that voice to perform a read that has an inflection and attitude that suits the style of your video. Someone on your project has to provide the direction that ensures V/O artists perform optimally.
  • This video makes it very easy for you to jump to the conclusion, “Ya, this is exactly what I need.”

Brand: Rise-to {London, UK}
Production Company: http://wonderlustmedia.ca/

Start with a good analogy.

  • “It’s a bit like online dating, but for jobs…”. You have to be able to explain in simple terms what your product does. A good analogy goes a long way.
  • This video promises to instantly match you with work experience, training and jobs based on the profile you submit. That’s a big promise but you need to offer something of significant value if you are going to get people to act on your promotion.
  • Visually this video is very simple. The graphics do just what they need to and the narrator and music keep you moving through the video.

Brand: Coca Cola {Atlanta, USA}
Production Company: we are cognitive

Just watch this video.

  • Seriously, you should watch this video. It’s a great whiteboard animation video – definitely one of the better ones we’ve seen but the content in the video is well worth watching.
  • Coke outlines it’s marketing / content creation plan for the next 5 to 10 years and it’s quite enlightening. Bottom-line, Coke has to evolve it’s creative agenda. It has to move from, as they describe it, ‘creative excellence’ to ‘content excellence’. That’s a big deal, coming from the world’s #1 brand.

Brand: Dropbox {san Fracisco, USA}
Production Company: Common Craft

I had to include at least one Common Craft Video in this list.

  • This is one of the first animated explainer video promotions for a business that people remember.
  • Watching the animation style in this video is like watching a 1950’s sitcom.
  • The writing and concept still hold up very well. Lee LeFever has a gift for distilling concepts down to very, very simple ideas. That’s the single most important factor in an explainer video. Can you distill the main ideas (problems, benefits, features, outcomes, etc.) into simple concepts that the target audience can easily understand and relate to? If you can, then choosing an animation style is not difficult.
  • And with over 4 million views it’s safe to say that this video delivered results.
Jimm Fox

Founder

Jimm has been working in video and marketing for the last 25 years agency side, client side and in video production.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>