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Should Marketers Re-think Animated TV Ads During the Holidays

2 minute read | December 2010

With shopping season in full swing, advertisers are rolling out their holiday-themed ads, many of which are sure to feature a cartoon reindeer or other festive animated character.

While the many benefits of using animation in TV ads are clear, new research from The Nielsen Company suggests that, although marketers have a lot to gain with animated ads, they may be sacrificing audience engagement with commercials that don’t resonate as well with savvy consumers.

With rapid advances in technology, the use of animation in television advertising (vs. live action ads) has become an attractive option for marketers. Animation frees advertisers from many of the creative limitations of live action film – such as location constraints and the task of securing actors – while often times providing significant cost savings.

However, in an analysis of television ads across all product categories, Nielsen found that, in general, live action ads were more effective than animation ads. For all major categories, live action ads scored 22 percent higher than animation-only ads in Brand Recall (the percentage of TV viewers who can recall the commercial and its advertised brand 24 hours after viewing it).

Live action creatives were more effective than animated ads across all major demographics as well. While live action ads resonated equally among both genders, Brand Recall was 27 percent stronger for females and 17 percent stronger among males than for animated ads. Adults 35 to 49 saw a 24 percent increase in brand recall for ads that used live action vs. animated. The gap shrunk, however, among viewers aged 13 to 35, who only showed an 11% change between live action and animated creatives.

When looking at consumer packaged goods (CPG) specifically, ads in the personal care category appeared to struggle the most when using animation. For certain personal care products, brand recall was twice as high among spots using live action vs. an animated theme.

There is a bright spot, however, for marketers looking to utilize animated advertising to drive grocery sales this holiday season, as that creative style does seem to work more effectively for some CPG categories. For example, animation ads for the food ingredients and seasoning category – essential for every holiday dinner – resonated significantly better with consumers. Brand recall for these categories was 28 percent higher for animation ads vs. live action.


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