The Promising Future of Personalized Animation with AI
When it comes to the rise of artificial intelligence, there are generally two camps:
- AI is coming for our jobs, or
- AI is a tool we can use to augment our jobs.
We’ve talked about how we’re in the latter camp at MOWE. But there’s a third camp we’re also pioneering: AI as a strategic behind the scenes operator that will bridge the gap between brands and consumers. When wielded by artists, AI has the power to boost entire animated marketing campaigns.
So, AI is not just a tool. It’s more than an output from ChatGPT or Midjourney. AI will (and already has, in some respects) unlock the potential for real-time personalization and localization in animated marketing. This will give animation studios like MOWE the power to blend art with insights — and deliver dynamically customized animated experiences that will automatically adjust and adapt for individual audiences. The potential for increasing the effectiveness and reach of a campaign when you add personalization is unparalleled.
If this sounds momentous, it’s because it is. Let’s delve into what we envision as the future of personalized advertising and the natural dovetail between animation with AI that will make it happen.
AI + Custom Animation = Personalized Marketing that Gets You Results
Before we get started, we want to set one thing straight. You shouldn’t care about AI just because it’s the cool kid at school. Your focus is and always has been on the numbers. What’s going to move the needle on the impact of your marketing efforts? Purposefully integrating AI with animation can move that needle. And that’s why you should care.
Emerging AI technology can extend the reach of each animated asset produced and leveraged as a part of your marketing strategy (look for the how below). More reach = more brand awareness = more users.
At MOWE, we have a strategic vision for how to use AI without altering the creative heart of your campaigns: to personalize animated content and enhance brand-to-consumer relationships by utilizing available data proffered by consumers to make it feel like your marketing materials are speaking directly to individuals — rather than pandering to demographics they may not identify with.
How Personalized Animation Is Possible
Personalized marketing is in some ways difficult to define. According to McKinsey, audiences describe personalization as “positive experiences that made them feel special.” Further, they say that “71 percent of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions,” and “76 percent get frustrated when this doesn’t happen.” So a tailored message is pretty important. And McKinsey’s research continues to establish that personalized marketing can “lift revenues by 5 to 15 percent, and increase marketing ROI by 10 to 30 percent.” That’s some powerful ads. But what does it actually look like?
In the case of animation and motion graphics, we see personalization leveraging emerging AI technology to bring the feeling of old fashioned one on one, direct to consumer, messaging to the masses.
A good (and fun) frame of reference? The Minority Report eye scan scene that takes place in the Gap. You know the one. It’s where a holographic woman asks Tom Cruise how the tank tops he bought are working out.
This isn’t an example of how personalized content works at the moment. Or how it has worked in the past, for that matter. It’s simply a great introduction to the overall concept of content personalization: marketing that speaks directly to the audience engaging with it, in a way that makes the audience feel like the asset was made for them and them alone.
Now, we’re a long way off from live action holograms scanning our eyes, but imagine instead having animated content with elements that change based on who’s watching; like a choose your own adventure, only chosen for you by an AI. This could take the form of:
- Character designs and clothing
- Text or voice, such as integrating a viewer’s name or nearby locations
- Different product models being featured for different viewers
- Health data — like recent step counts or heart rate shared via an app
AI will be able to tweak the appearance of a video based on any data the user chooses to share, making it entirely their own experience.
We’re already able to personalize animation in this way in broad strokes by mixing video with code to embed customized images and/or text based on user submitted data (for instance, a social media profile) into pre-designed “dropzones.” Dropzones are sections of a video that are pre-programmed for these custom elements to be added to.
The custom content revolution actually started in 2010 when Google hacked Maps and Street View to personalize the Wilderness Downtown music video for Arcade Fire. While Spotify Wrapped exemplifies the strength of today’s custom tailored motion graphics.
While dropzones in live action videos are rigid elements that can’t be altered, and custom animated content such as Wrapped relies on templates, which may offer a bit more variety, but suffer the same difference threshold, as only so many templates can be designed and programmed before release, these bespoke pieces of content feel like they were made especially for the viewer. It’s therefore more potent, impactful, and memorable.
Why Animation Is Perfect for Personalized Content
In theory, many types of content could receive the personalization treatment. But animation is a particularly friendly playground for personalization for two reasons:
- Unlike live-action, animation is crafted in layers with vectors and illustrations. This tends to make animation simpler and therefore more cost-effective to edit and update. We don’t have to start from scratch; we can simply manipulate a single layer. All to say, adding personalization to a flexible medium like animation is straightforward.
- Animation is already 100% digital. Every element of an animated video lives in the computer and can be edited at the drop of a hat. With live-action, everyone has to get back on set, the weather has to be right, etc.
Animation is truly the best positioned medium for leveraging the benefits personalization — and AI — have to offer.
Taking Personalization to the Next Level with AI for Animation
Adding AI to the personalization mix is akin to a seasoned chef following a recipe by memory and measuring the ingredients by feel. Because of their ability to smooth the seams where content is altered, to identify characters, and to isolate specific elements of an image that might need to be changed, the mere addition of AI changes the entire concept of a dropzone. Rigid boxes become flexible guidelines that adjust based on the needs of the content being added, resulting in a more seamless visual experience that feels made for each viewer—because it is.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
AI’s greatest contribution to personalized animation is actually all about the data. AI, as we use it today, is just a fancy term for number crunching pattern recognizing if-this-then-that algorithms. Of course it’s a lot more complicated than that. But you get the idea. AI soaks up data and spins it into something new. And it does it really fast. It’s modern alchemy. And it’s only a matter of time and processing power before it’s able to render out new frames on the fly to personalize animation the way we’re previewing here.
Keep in mind: our vision is for human artists to conceive the strategy, build the framework, design the style, and create motion guidelines for personalized content, forming a sandbox in which AI is able to adjust parameters — within the bounds and rules established by the human — for customization. This is only possible with human creators running the show…pulling the puppet strings of the AI.
With an understanding of why personalization makes marketing more impactful, and why animation is an ideal medium for personalization, let’s look at specific ways AI can support creators to personalize a video.
In Living Color: AI Adapts to Disabilities
Imagine being able to adjust specific sections of a video to allow someone who is colorblind to see the full image, without sacrificing brand identity or the quality and intention of the design—after the video is rendered, delivered and launched.
This could be achieved by the artist tasking AI with adjusting colors within certain contrast,value and hue relationship parameters based on a viewer’s vision limitations – just like the technology the onHue team has been developing. In the future, this might even be done as an automatic reaction to how camera software like Apple’s FaceID tracks changes in a viewer’s eyes.
Meet You There: AI for Content Localization
The sky’s the limit when it comes to streamlining localization and expanding the footprint of your campaign. AI could use viewer location data to:
- Add subtitles and/or dub voices depending on the local language detected
- Change certain colors — to reflect a particular country’s flag hues, for example
- Substitute in-video signage
- Remove material that might be offensive to cultures in a certain region
Programming AI to recognize regional viewing data and change these elements on the fly will enable more videos to be localized on a moment’s notice — all while decreasing the time and cost it takes to create these additional, localized assets.
En Vogue: Fashion, AI, and Customized Animation
Say a female runner views your animation. From the data, we know she’s training for a marathon and wants to more easily track her long runs.
Using AI could ensure a character who’s relatable to the woman appears in her version of the animation — perhaps a female runner instead of a male. Or, AI could select the most relevant version of your product to advertise to this woman. For instance, if this animation was an ad for an Apple Watch playing inside an activity trapping app, the AI would insert an Apple Watch Ultra instead of an SE, since the Ultra has more accurate dual-GPS that marathon runners prefer. This is potent, personalized marketing for digital health brands, in particular.
Be a Trailblazer with Personalized Animation
AI-enabled, real-time personalization of content is an evolving — and inevitable — method of engaging consumers that is already revolutionizing the marketing industry.
MOWE’s full-circle approach for using animation to influence audience behavior, combined with our research and development around emerging technologies, allows us to ensure that our clients will lead this next wave of strategic marketing techniques. Join us!