The pandemic had an effect on advertising in more ways than one this year. For starters, most campaigns had no choice but to acknowledge the impact it had on us, incorporating references to things like social distancing. Distancing itself put advertising in an awkward spot; after all, if performers had to stay at home or at least two metres apart, then how possible was it to create a commercial?
Super easy, actually, as employing animation made that barely an inconvenience to the ad industry. This year saw loads of motion design adverts and live-action/animation hybrids hitting the screen, showing how motion design has become a booming area for visual creatives.
We expect it will stay this way no matter the state of world affairs, and learning motion design for yourself is made easy with Created, which offers courses that will teach you the skills you need to become a motion designer, in a flexible way that you can combine with your career or education.
To inspire your future motion creations, we've teamed up with Created to pick out ten favourite motion design adverts of 2020, presented in no special order (although each one is extraordinary in our hearts).
1. Lifebuoy – Bish, Bash, Bosh
When we put out a Twitter call to the people about their favourite animated advert of 2020, the response was almost unanimously favouring this animated treat from Dan Woodger. The London illustrator's bold and bright characters "peopled" this advert for Lifebuoy's hand sanitiser gel, in a year when (hopefully) most people were keeping their hands spic and span. OK, let's stop using the word 'people' now and let Dan Woodger explain more about his creation.
"The creative challenge was to come up with something positive, fun and upbeat whilst promoting good hygiene practice in the midst of a scary and troubling time," he tells us. "This took some sensitivity and thought to strike the right balance. Working with a team of talented animators and set to catchy doo-wop style jingles, we created a series of snappy animations focused around the day-to-day lives of hands and all the common ways they're used in public spaces, reminding people to sanitise regularly."
2. Childline – Nobody is Normal
Our stop-motion choice of the year goes to this touching and highly effective reminder to kids that however weird they feel inside, they are not alone.
Its soundtrack choice of Radiohead's Creep is on-point, fitting in with the edgy aesthetics employed by stop motion animation director Catherine Prowse. Her Dutch angles and array of fantastical creatures all scream "Horror!" whilst leading to the most positive, uplifting outcome possible. Touching, subversive work, pointing to a bright career ahead of Catherine.
3. Libresse & Bodyform – Womb Stories
The most epic motion design advert we saw this year had to be Womb Stories. A unique and beautiful animated film for Libresse & Bodyform, its three minutes of wonder hopes to dispel myths, encourage a positive conversation and address the life-changing moments in a woman's life. The project was brought to life by a female-led team, directed by Golden Globe winner and Emmy nominated Nisha Ganatra, and created by global studio Framestore – a partner of Created on its Motion Design Professional course – in partnership with Nick & Nadja at advertising agency AMV BBDO.
Its six animated sequences each feature a different animation style to show the "inner-worlds that act as reflections to the realities of the uterus". Styles include 2D cell techniques and stop-frame animation and hand-painted images created with oil paint on glass. As all are brought together in one film shows the endless possibilities offered by motion design, and how open it is to those of all disciplines.
4. Department for Transport – It's Everyone's Journey
Before the pandemic forced many us to stay at home, wholesome animations from the Department of Transport (DFT) reminded commuters not to be animals as they go about their journeys. Why? Well, commuting is already a nightmare in Britain, so imagine doing it as a disabled person, one in four of whom say negative attitudes from other passengers prevent them from using public transport.
To raise awareness, the DFT launched It's Everyone's Journey, a campaign created by VMLY&R in partnership with Nexus Studios' Oscar-nominated directors Smith & Foulkes. To convey its sensitive and serious message in a light-hearted fashion, the charming ads used animal characters as visual metaphors to highlight how people's behaviour can change when taking public transport. The soundtrack, an original song by Siren Factory, reminds us it only takes a little effort to make the public transport environment a better place for everyone. Remember that for when everything reopens and reverts to normal in future!
5. Absolut – It's In Our Spirit
This recent campaign from November may have passed you by, despite featuring the one and only Tessa Thompson. We don't want to spoil the surprise, but the Marvel star has a cameo in this adventure through futuristic worlds.
Created for vodka brand Absolut by NYC/LA studio Psyop, It's In Our Spirit is the most cutting-edge of all the motion design campaigns we've seen this year. A breakneck and immersive two minutes of anime, CGI and cyberpunk, creative directors Todd Mueller and Kylie Matulick combine various styles to tell an overall narrative of various folk striving to escape the digital worlds they're inhabiting. Sound familiar? It should do, as the ad comes with the hashtag #togetherIRL, representing the yearning of many to get back out there and enjoy themselves in the real world again.
6. Erste Group – Edgar's Christmas
Passion Animation Studios made more than one cracker this year, such as their Christmas creation for financial service provider Erste. Yes, we said financial service provider, but don't turn up your nose just yet as the firm's past Christmas ads have all gone viral, attracting over 180 million views with their charming tales of adorable animals. This year they tell a human story through the characters of Edgar and Marie, a sad older man and a kind carer in a care home.
Directed once again by Kyra & Constantin and produced by Passion, the tear-jerking spot acknowledges the pandemic's impact on our lives. As Erste Creative Director Michael Nagy says: "This year we're addressing a theme that's important for Christmas every year, but all the more in these exceptional times – namely being there for each other. That's what drives Marie, the optimistic and lively caregiver who... manages to warm Edgar's heart and ensure that he enjoys an exceptional Christmas celebration."
Through gorgeous music and relatable characters in a Pixar-style, Edgar's Christmas warmed our hearts, too.
7. NHS – #KeepDonating
The Covid-19 pandemic saw steep declines in blood donations. To remind folk to #KeepDonating, fab animators like Hannah Lau-Walker, Hannah Jacobs and Kyle Platts collaborated on short but sweet animations released back in April.
The project was spearheaded by Freddie Webb of sound design studio Father. Webb's daughter relies on blood transfusions, prompting him to reach out to animation studios Strange Beast and Blinkink. Fifteen animated spots were made in all, each using the same two red and pink hex codes, with pure white if the artist desired. Check more of the shorts on the Strange Beast Instagram.
8. Breast Cancer Now – Love-Hate Relationship
One of our most recent faves is an ad made by Anna Ginsburg and Strange Beast for breast health awareness campaign Check Them. The British film director was asked to visualise the nuances and complexities of women's relationship with their breasts. As Anna said upon the spot's launch, "I hope I managed to convey some relatable moments. It was important to make everyone feel included by showing a multitude of different types of breasts and using a vibrant colour palette to communicate skin tone diversity.
"I hope it makes women feel less alone and inspires them to celebrate whatever breasts they have even for a moment. I hope most of all that the accessibility of the message inspires women to check their breasts regularly; however, they feel about them."
Creative Boom feels she nailed it perfectly.
9. Waitrose & John Lewis – Give a Little Love
Created by advertising agency adam&eveDDB, the two-minute Waitrose & John Lewis Christmas ad celebrates different forms of moving art, from animation and claymation to CGI and cinematography. Its nine different vignettes were created by eight different artists who are leading experts in their particular art, including Chris Hopewell, who has created music videos for Radiohead and Franz Ferdinand, and acclaimed French animator Sylvain Chomet.
The scenes are connected to create a long chain of giving, as each film passes the campaign's heart emblem on to the next part of the film. The storyline illustrates how acts of kindness, large and small, can multiply and positively impact the world in which we live as we pass them on to others. That so many creatives were involved is another act of kindness, giving employment to many people across our creative community which has been so hard hit by the pandemic.
10. Wagamama – Bowl to Soul
March saw us fall in love with an anime-inspired campaign for Japanese food chain Wagamama. Created by Danish anime director Mads Broni and Passion Animation Studios, Bowl to Soul is based on the brand's association with Japanese food and its founding philosophy that food doesn't just feed our belly, it "nourishes our soul".
The ad illustrates this by showing the restorative sensation of eating Wagamama food, with the ad's protagonist tumbling into a magical land filled with flowing rivers of ramen, undulating coriander fields and exploding fireworks of spice. Through a combination of hand-drawn and computer illustrated artwork, the film nicely brings together a broad range of modern, diverse references and characters, with each frame existing as a unique illustration inspired by anime art. The excellent sound design from Thirty Two Music also shows how audio is an integral part of the motion design experience.