It's been a while, and after a few meetings and rounds of feedback the time has come to seriously get started on the research paper. If things go according to plan I'll be finished with the bulk of my paper by the end of this month, so I have my work cut out for me.
Since the paper will be addressing the question: "What is the added value of using animated shorts as a medium for advertising," the best way to begin would be to look into the relationship between animation and advertising. Why is animation utilized to begin with? And what would make a company take the step of investing into an entire animated short, something I can assume is a relatively expensive decision, to promote their product? Why would an animated short achieve a positive effect?
The good old days
It's not a hard question to answer seeing as there's such an abundance of animation in advertising, since 1899 in fact. Since the good old days it has been an ideal tool for bringing mascots to life and presenting products with a bit of humor and style. Not all of these commercials were necessarily intended for kids, but more often than not they had a goofy and playful tone. A quick look at the highly entertaining vintage TV commercials YouTube channel brings some interesting examples to light:
The snickers and tic tac commercials actually from some pretty interesting parallels with the 'animated shorts as promotion' phenomenon, since they sort of mimic complete stories in a highly shortened and compressed form. They are both short little stories with settings and characters, plus a beginning, middle and end with a small dramatic build-up. They obviously exploit an already-existing fondness for animation and try to build an association between this and the product. The huge difference with the animated shorts I'm looking at is, of course, that mine are actually animated shorts and not TV spots.
So it's obvious that animation and advertising make a pretty good pair. The flexibility of animation makes it perfect for promotion purposes. You can bring anything to life, and tell any story you want. Back in the good old days, this was limited to 2D animation so they were all based on cartoony illustration styles, perhaps for budget reasons but perhaps also because this was very accessible to audiences. Nowadays, animation techniques are so broad that the average person probably can't even tell if it's being used. 9 out of 10 car commercials feature a meticulously modelled 3D version of the car rather than a filmed one.
This could account for the equally broad application of animation styles in advertising today. Although the cartoony, sketchy animated commercials are far from dead - I feel like I've been watching the same Red Bull commercial my entire life - I can also enjoy tons of other approaches as well. Or not enjoy - never underestimate the abundance of animated eye-sores during commercial breaks.
Animation vs. Animated Shorts
So it's obvious: animation is well suited to advertising needs. To go one small step further: how are animated shorts well suited to advertising needs? One might say "the exact same way that animation in general is suited to advertising needs," but there's a huge difference between animated shorts and animated TV spots: the venues for viewing them are completely different. Airing a commercial on TV is a common and widely embraced form of promotion, but a full animated short must be displayed elsewhere, requiring a lot of promotion in order for it to get the same amount of exposure as a TV spot.
Other differences? An animated short goes much more in-depth. The story and style are generally much more developed and the production process is much more complicated and lengthy. Happiness Factory is an especially fitting example of this - the gigantic range of characters, the large and epic settings, the huge variety of narrative potential. Trembled Blossoms also takes much more time to tell a story than a TV spot could, which is a crucial aspect of the short.
I guess that's the reason I find the whole thing interesting enough to write a paper about. Apparently there are opportunities for commercial animators to find work that lies somewhere between working on large projects, like features, and small projects like TV spots, that are also challenging and require some critical thinking. That is, if you're so lucky (or talented) to land one of these projects in your career! Fortunately I get to invent my own project, haha. By the way, I've been talking to teachers of mine about the possibility of getting a big company to work with me on this project and help direct the creative process of the animated short I will create, which would be an interesting challenge. Updates soon to follow about how that will work out...