3 Reasons Motion Graphics Fail to Engage

By September 19, 2019 October 2nd, 2019 Motion Graphics, Video Marketing
Illustration of computer showing a play button for animated video or motion graphics surrounded by data visualization elements

In 2018, 77% of marketers planned to increase their use of video. And it’s no secret why. Cisco predicts video traffic will be 82% of all IP traffic by 2022! But you can’t guarantee success by  creating an animated video. Not every designer is versed in best practices for motion graphics; not every design agency is either. And failing to follow those best practices can spoil even a great idea.

Here are 3 key ways in which a motion graphic could miss the mark.

1. It’s Not Optimized for the Viewing Environment

Your agency creates a dynamic motion graphic driven by sound design. The custom score crescendos at just the right moment. The sounds of each footstep and breath create tension. And the voiceover takes charge of the storytelling. You know this video will steal the show at your expo booth next week.

But wait. Will it really?

In the relative quiet of your own office, the full soundscape completes the story. That’s perfect for individual viewers or small groups. It can even be ideal even for large groups in the right setting — such as on the big screen during a speaking session at a conference. But imagine a packed expo hall.

Each company’s booth is back to back. Thousands of attendees stream by each minute. You hear hundreds of conversations within earshot. The custom score, sound design, and voiceover crafted by your motion graphic designer fade into the background. Passersby glance at the video screen, but quickly lose interest when they can’t follow the story through the on-screen action alone. Your heart sinks — and so does your ROI.

Hopefully, you’re only imagining this scenario, rather than actually living through it. Either way, there’s a solution.

This video was developed for viewing in a trade show setting, determining the use of on-screen text, omission of voiceover, and other key production choices.

Work with your motion graphic design agency to plan for your viewing environment(s) at the outset of concepting. This way, your creative team can optimize for the primary viewing environment.

Your team can create different versions for different environments. Or, you may make entirely different videos based on each space where the content will be shared. Discuss this with your creative team at the project kickoff to decide your best path.

2. It’s Longer Than a Successful Motion Graphic Should Be

A Wistia study found that when it comes to video length, engagement holds strong up to around 2 minutes at the longest. Longer than that, and your audience is likely to click away.

This may seem shocking in a time when a 181-minute movie can gross nearly $3 billion (so far). But the use cases for an organization’s motion graphics are different from those of entertainment motion pictures. When a business produces a video aimed at getting audiences to respond or take action, the time an audience will devote to watching and listening is limited.

Particularly when engaging with audiences on social media, consider the video lengths that people are used to. Videos posted to your Instagram feed can only be up to 60 seconds long. The Instagram Story feature, with a 24-hour lifespan on the platform, can only run 15 seconds per image or video. Of course, you can upload a longer video on this feature. Instagram will simply split it into 15-second portions.

Since audiences routinely view social media videos in these brief increments, you should consider working in similar spans. A short-form animated video, whether in MP4 format or GIF, is about the length of an Instagram Story upload. A motion graphic can tell a complete story in 60 seconds or less. It’s all about how you use the time. Speaking of that …

Curious what visual communication can do for you?

3. It Uses Voiceover and/or On-Screen Text Ineffectively

You know that moment at the end of a commercial, when it transitions to the audio equivalent of “fine print”? The voiceover artist rushes to fit in a disclaimer at unbelievable speeds, so that you can hardly understand what’s being said. Sometimes the same information is also displayed on-screen as actual fine print. This information is deemed necessary by the company or the organizations that govern it (such as governmental requirements for safety or liability messaging). Yet whether the audience actually absorbs the information seems to be of little importance.

The effect is similar when you expect your designer or agency to fit too much into the motion graphics they create. You write out everything you want to express, and pass it along to record a 90-second voiceover. Rather than recording, they write back to let you know that your “90-second voiceover” clocks in at 4 minutes. What happened?

Image of content coming out of a mobile phone screen, implying script length for a motion graphic

The natural cadence of speech means that you may not be able to fit as many words into your voiceover as you’d expect.

In fact, at a relaxed pace, that last sentence (“The natural cadence …”) comes in at around 8 seconds — nearly 10% of the full length of a 90-second video.

And what if you include lots of on-screen text to compensate? The balance of trying to view the visuals, listen to the voiceover, and read text that doesn’t match the voiceover will leave your audience overextended, confused, and disengaged.

In this case, less is truly more. It’s much better to communicate your message succinctly than to say too much too quickly — and lose impact in the process. Successful writers carefully time video scripts against their run-time and proposed on-screen action. The same goes for the amount of text shown on-screen. Motion graphic agencies should be experienced in striking the right balance.

In Any Case, Your Motion Graphics Designer Should Drive the Conversation

There are far more than 3 ways to steer a motion graphic awry. These are just a few common mistakes to watch out for. Other errors can apply broadly to many types of visual content — for example, not catering to your target audience, or trying to accomplish too many goals with one piece.

It’s all a lot to consider. As a client, you shouldn’t need to be the main party looking out for these things. Rather, your motion graphics agency or designer should advocate best practices and optimize your animated video for your needs. You should always feel supported and guided, so that your motion graphic can truly drive success for your company.

Lucy Todd

Author Lucy Todd

Lucy Todd is the Chief Process Officer at Killer Visual Strategies. She is a Seattle native and Western Washington University graduate. Her degree in Creative Writing and her customer service background both inform her work daily. A Killer employee since 2011 and executive since 2014, Lucy has researched for, written, and/or project-managed over 4,000 projects for the company, affording her key insight into our processes and projects. This experience is invaluable in allowing her to lead and empower Killer’s content and project management teams to success. Lucy enjoys managing the day-to-day at the office, offering a unique perspective when a team or colleague feels stuck, and learning from her peers and clients each day.

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