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Bryant and May were the first British company to utilize animation for advertising purposes. In 1899 animator Arthur Melbourne-Cooper was hired to produce a stop-motion short in which matchstick men move along a ladder and paint an appeal on a wall. This appeal read `For one guinea Messrs Bryant & May will forward a case containing sufficient to supply a box of matches to each man in a battalion with the name of the sender inside.'(www.bfi.co.uk) It is easy to be cynically dismissive of what is obviously a clever, if extremely crude, ad campaign disguised as a patriotic act of charity during the Boer war. However it is not as easy to be as dismissive of the extent to which animation has been adopted from these humble beginnings as a prevailing force within modern advertising strategy.
The 22nd September 1955 gave birth to commercial television broadcasting in the United Kingdom. Right from the outset advertisers where quick to seize upon the opportunity and advertising possibilities that animation put in front of them. During these early years up to a third of television advertising was animated such as the "Murray Mints, the too-good-to-hurry mints," or Snap, Crackle an Pop," for Kellogg's Rice Krispies which both debut in 1955. The Kellogg ads brought to life hand drawn characters that had been used on the packaging of cereal boxes since 1928 and the campaign still runs to this day. The Murray Mints commercial, which featured soldiers in bearskin hats march in time to a jingle, won best ad of the year in the inaugural year of British television advertising. (Robinson, 2000, p35) J Walter Thompson who had handled the Guinness account since 1929 set about bringing to life; through the process of animation, the extremely popular Gilroy posters that had become an institution and started a 'Guinness culture.'
If advertisers were keen to use animators in their campaigns then animators where certainly keen to encourage receive the work. The two industries formed a symbiosis which was characterised by the overnight emergence of a whole new market in the advertising industry meant that there were a lot of new opportunities for young animators to set up new companies with the minimum of capital and experiment with new techniques. Companies such as biographic which was set up by Bob Godfrey who produced ads for various companies such as Shipams fish paste and Nestle. (Threadgould, 2005)
The use of animation in commercials certainly proved popular with advertisers, and with home viewers but it was the "Homepride flour men" who proved that it could also be an effective tool. The "Homepride flour men" ad debut in 1965. The ad featured two men in black business suits and bowler hats standing in between two packets of flour. A sieve is placed over the head of one of the men and flour poured into it. The processes is repeated with Homepride flour which sieves much quicker as it is graded and the second man is instantly covered in flour turning his black suit white. The reason is explained by the man in the hat; voiced by Dads Army star John Le Mesurier; and his words produced the slogan 'GRADED GRAINS MAKE FINER FLOURS.'
The campaign succeeded in making Homepride a market leader within four months. These characters became so popular that a leader (Fred) was named by the advertising brains to give a name to the uniform faces. Merchandise such as aprons, peppermills, fridge magnets and various other kitchenalias were produced as 'collectors' items. Fred's image spurned a whole range of sub products for the company and it is still used to sell a variety of Homepride products today. To keep up with changing times made retain a sense of tradition; various comedians such as Richard Briers and Paul Merton have voiced Fred, he is today voiced by Nick Frost from Spaced.
Homepride have managed to infuse their brand identity with that of Fred, their iconic mascot. They have used his effigy on other products such as sauces and kitchen utensils to place the home pride brand firmly into people's kitchens. However the runaway success of a particular ad campaign does not guarantee an increase of sales of the product it is supposed to promote.
Creature Comforts began life as a short film. It was an incredibly engaging short due to the interaction between fantasy and reality with which it presented the viewer. In his book Understanding Animation Paul Wells describes the relationship between the diegetic narrative and the characters surroundings as fabrication and suggest that it is a narrative strategy. This is to say that 'fabrication essentially plays out an alternative version of material existence, recalling narrative out of constructed objects and environments, natural forms and substances, and the taken for granted constituent elements of the everyday world.'(Wells, 1998 p90) This means that there is a relationship between the abstract expression of character through the model and the 'constituent elements of the everyday world,' which lends itself more towards mimesis. Despite the fact that animation is an abstract form of expression, these ads have a 'documentary feel' that lends a voice of authority to their claims.
Nick Parks Creature Comforts and the electricity adverts that followed it present a world in which highly stylised models of animals are animated with the voices of members of the British public. The opinions and the voices of the public and then perfectly matched to appropriate animals. The most memorable example being Frank the jogging tortoise. Frank chats to a locked off camera about how nice it is to come back from a ten mile run into a warm flat, and how it is important that the boiler is easily "turn off and onable." The world being presented to the consumer is instantly recognizable; frank is discussing the simple pleasures of modern life. He is an everyman despite the fact that he is a talking animal.
The affinity between model animation and the physical world in which it is filmed means that it is to a certain extent confined by the physical laws of our world in order to remain recognizable and believable. Of course these laws can are being flouted, model characters can talk and discuss everyday matters like members of the general public, but the relationship between the animated models and the world they inhabit means that when physical law is flouted a sense of the uncanny or the fantastic is achieved.
This is why the shorts or so engaging but it is also why they failed as ads. Despite the fact that the campaign reached number 4 in a 2000 poll of 'The 100 greatest TV ads," the common misconception is that the ads were selling gas. As Nick Park himself explains it, "People still refer to them as 'the gas adverts.'" (Robinson, 2000, p124) Although the ads were highly memorable they failed to link the commercial and the product.
Successful animalised advertising campaigns are based entirely on the same principles as successful live action campaigns. "Advertising's central function is to create desires that did not previously exist." (Dyer, 1982 p6) A miss-judged campaign such as the creature comforts campaign may not be deemed successful if it does not stimulate within the consumer a desire to consume a given product. Where as the Kellogg animated mascots for frosties, rice krispies and coco-pops have succeeded in becoming intrinsically infused with the products that they are selling.
One of the main advantages of using animation in advertising is the ability of animators to create environments and worlds that could not be accessed or reproduced by a live action camera crew. These artificial environments can be used to stimulate imagination and desire, to create a fantastical world of possibility, which can then be realised by the purchase of a given product. Coco-pops are advertised by a variety of jungle characters that inhabit a fantastical world of imagination and fun that is extremely appealing to young children.
Also when advertising medical products such as toothpaste, animated medical presentations can be employed. These usually take the form of a split screen with the advertised product on one side of the screen and a leading competitor on the other. The animation will then demonstrate just how the product works and is more effective than a rival brand.
Another appeal of animation to the ad man is the classlessness of the form. (Threadgould, 2005) characters such as the Homepride's Fred and the Fairy liquid baby are free from the class constraints of traditional British society. They bridge the class gap and appeal to proletariat and privileged alike.
Animation can also be a relatively inexpensive process. Pioneers such as Peter Sachs of Larkin studios and Bob Godfrey of biographic, found quicker cheaper animation methods than the traditional fluid aesthetic style of Disney. They employed jagged and rough stylings that borrowed from German expressionism. The theory being, to use limited animation to maximum effect. (Threadgould, 2005) By emphasising certain details advertisers can allude to certain qualities that can be associated with the product. For example the Michelin Man's rounded tyre body alludes to the strength and durability of the tyres but also their malleability.