While animated ‘explainer’ videos are all the rage online, are they right for your business? If you’re unclear on what an ‘explainer video’ is, it consists of some kind of animation (hand drawn, cut-out, collage, etc.) with music and a voice-over that explains how a service or product works. These videos can be a lot of fun to watch and work exceptionally well for certain kinds of businesses. But there are other cases where a live-action video with real people and products would do a better job of getting the message across. And sometimes, a mix of animation and live-action can be even more effective. So how do you choose?

At its heart, it’s all about your goals and the target audience for your marketing video. Once you clearly establish who you are trying to reach, and what your video needs to accomplish, deciding what form it should take will be a lot easier. Young audiences may prefer a humourous, animated video. Live-action might work best for shoppers at your online store, wanting to see your products in action and ready to buy, on the spot.

We’ve put together a quick comparison guide to help you determine the best option for your next video.


  • SHOWCASING YOUR PRODUCT: If your organization creates a physical product, live-action video is usually the best way to show and demonstrate it. That doesn’t mean you can’t use animation to illustrate how your product works or what goes into creating it. But people researching a product want to see it in action. Showcasing your product, especially when it’s beautifully lit and professionally filmed, is a proven way to increase sales. This is one example we created for Nature Power Products:
  • TUGGING HEART STRINGS & PURSE STRINGS: People relate and connect to humans and animals – even when they’re on screen. For a non-profit organization, hearing from and seeing those being helped – through live-action video – can reach straight to the hearts of viewers.
  • INTRODUCING YOUR TEAM: Live-action is also the perfect medium to help build a relationship between your clients and the people behind the scenes of your brand. You can use it to introduce a passionate product designer, an inspiring project manager or dedicated customer service rep – and can help build a human connection to your business.
  • SO WHAT’S IT COST? That’s a tough one. Will your video be shot in one afternoon all in one room with a single camera, and then require very little editing? Or does it require multiple shooting locations, professional actors and a green screen studio? You can expect a one minute live-action video to cost anywhere from under $3000 to over $40 000 – an experienced production company can help you quickly price it out and mould the idea to your price range.


  • THE ENTERTAINMENT FACTOR: Animation can be a lot of fun and show off your organization’s funny side. If you want to use zombies or crazed pineapples to illustrate your point, a talented animator can whip it up, without the expense of make-up, costumes and a set for a fleet of the undead. And when viewers are laughing, they’re more apt to share your video with others – great if social media sharing is one of your main goals.
  • FACTS AND FIGURES: If your organization or business needs to convey a lot of information, facts and numbers, animation can be one way to make it more interesting to watch. Charity Water did just that by using this animation to show the water problem and how viewers could help to improve it:

  • SOFTWARE OR NEW SERVICES: Software and services are typically difficult to show on camera. Most software solves a problem or makes a task easier. Animation is often the most expedient and simplest way to demonstrate just how this service works and will improve their lives.

    This video for Crazy Egg is a good example. Crazy Egg is a heat map tool that shows why website visitors aren’t converting into sales. This video is a good example of a problem/solution type of animated video and includes screencasts of the web app in action.

  • COST OF ANIMATION: So how much do animated videos cost? You’ll save on hiring a crew and extensive editing, but you still need to have a script. You may also need to hire a professional narrator and pay for royalty free music. The biggest cost will go to the animator who has to create every frame that goes on screen. Different styles of animation take differing amounts of time to create, so expect to pay anywhere between $2000 – 10 000 for a one minute video.


Sometimes the right solution is a combination of live action and animation. Animation doesn’t necessary mean cute drawings or funny characters. Moving words on screen, having photos of your products in motion or motion graphics are all examples of animation that move beyond “The Simpsons.”

AirBNB has an inspiring video that creatively uses live action to convincingly demonstrate their service, while incorporating motion graphics to give factual info.

Each project has its own needs. Want to discuss an idea for your next video? Contact us!

  1. Moloy Dey says:

    Wow that was a great post. I have been working onANIMATED VIDEOS for a couple of years and I was thinking on writing something similar on my blog too. Your post will serve as an inspiration to me. 🙂

  2. Thanks so much for the kind words, Moley! I checked out your website and you have some really nice work. Hope we have the chance to collaborate on some projects in the future- we do hire out for animation services. We’re about to switch this blog over onto one that will be part of our newly redesigned website which launches tomorrow, so I hope you will sign up to keep up on our RSS feed and keep in touch.

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