10 Minutes

Live-Action Vs Animation: Which Is Right For Your Marketing Needs?

Written By

Sean Martin

We’ve all come across our fair share of live-action and animated videos in our digital shopping experiences. The question is, which one were you more affected by? Can you remember more live-action videos than animated? Do you think more of video ads or helpful, insightful video content? These are the questions that can help guide your decision making when it comes to choosing between live-action and animated video for your digital marketing needs. 

Thankfully, in this short 10 minute read, I’ll be walking you through everything you need to know about the two video marketing titans including their pros, their cons, and the specific psychological tips you need to remember in order to optimize either. 

So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started. 

When/Why To Use Video In Digital Marketing

We all like to think that our product or service is an obvious solution to the problems of our everyday consumers. But, the reality is that explaining the finer details of your product/service can get complicated if you’re relying solely on blog posts and landing page copy.

Even if you’re a master of conversion-oriented copy, that doesn’t mean your user will read it. 

And if they do read it, their likelihood of remembering it is actually quite low.

landing page video 1
- Image Source

With the average consumer remembering 80% of what they see and do, video seems like your best bet. So, leveraging product explainer videos to make sure your users understand (and remember) the value of converting is definitely worth it.

Explainer videos, for the most part, fall under one of two categories: those that explain your product/service features, and those that explain the benefits.

  • Feature Focused Videos: focus on the features of your product/service and explain what that product is or does. For example, a feature of a classic iPod is 1 GB of MP3 storage space.
  • Benefit Focused Videos: advertise the benefits of your product/service and speak in terms of value to the user. Using the same example, the benefits of an iPod with the above features would be the ability to hold 1000 songs in your pocket.

Now that we know the general gist of what your videos should be focused on, we can dive into the actual debate over which type of video is best - live-action or animated. 

The Live-Action Vs Animation Video Debate

The answer to whether you should use live-action or animation in your videos will often depend on your industry, competition and several other factors to be discussed in this piece. 

You want to stay mindful of what types of content your key audiences will best engage with. But as a general rule, taking the road less traveled to differentiate yourself from your competition is a good start.

So let’s start with some of the pros and cons of live-action video to see what it offers before we dive into its more (seemingly) whimsical opponent. 

Starting with the obvious: the first pro is that live-action videos put a human face to your marketing efforts. As is the case in all forms of marketing and advertising, users don’t tend to immediately trust what they see or hear, because they fear they’re “being sold to” by some large brand. Putting a real human on screen to explain your services can help familiarize your brand. It also gives you a sense of authority and expertise on the subject.

This is a great way to make your conversion experience more familiar and personalized. And marketing personalization has been a strong conversion booster proven over the past few years. Lastly - and this may seem obvious, but -  if your video is product based instead of explanatory based, live-action provides a great opportunity for IRL (in-real-life) uses.


- Image Source

Now, if we’re talking about the pros of live-action being based on the “human element,” it’s only fair we consider the other side of the coin: 

Not everyone is meant to be on screen. Sorry, but just because you’re a CEO or startup founder doesn’t automatically qualify you to make awesome video content.

Carli Lloyd Cringe GIF by Houston Dash - Find & Share on GIPHY
- Image Source

To be clear, live-action has more drawbacks than simply awkward on-screen performances. There are quite a few other cons to consider: 

  • While putting a face to the product/service humanizes your brand, not all humans are good on screen.
  • Live-action video is either perceived as high quality or very low quality, which means investing in production quality is a must.
  • Investing in production quality such as sets, lighting, editing, etc. can get quite expensive quite fast.


Now that I’ve successfully taken the wind out of your sail (sorry about that), let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of animated videos and see what we can learn from that. 

Starting again with the most obvious pro: animated video gives you complete control over world creation and the “reality” of your video.

You don’t have to worry about what your actor or what props/graphics you can add into your video. You can create an abstract world from scratch that is solely dedicated to explaining your topic symbolically, metaphorically, or explicitly.

However, there are two legitimate cons to animated video that can be serious barriers to entry. 

  • The first is that you will need to find a competent animation designer. Animated videos aren’t the same as graphic design, illustration design, or production art. So you need to make sure you’re hiring a designer with a specialty in the right niche. 
  • Secondly, because you have so much creative reign in regards to animated storytelling, the video storyboarding can get quite complex. However this isn’t something to be scared away by. It simply means you need to be detailed and thorough with the specific story you want your video to tell.

Now, this is again only speaking in broad strokes - as the specific needs of any video campaign are going to vary widely depending on the actual goals and resources of the company. However, when it comes to video it’s important to remember that you’re dealing with a very unique, highly saturated, highly dynamic, and highly scrutinized type of content. And a type of content that requires quite a bit of investment just to get up and running. So before you go and decide what type of video you want just based on its capabilities, take a look at some of the barriers of entry you’ll have to deal with. 

The Barrier To Entry For Successful Video Marketing

Not everyone can afford to invest in video production. Video may be rapidly growing into the most consumed digital medium, but it still comes with a high production cost. Here are just a few potential costs to consider:


  • personnel (a professional videographer, possibly actors)
  • time (shooting can take hours, days, even weeks)
  • equipment (iPhone videos won’t cut it — sorry)
  • editing software (color correction, animation, etc.)


Assuming that you can afford these resources, there are still a few questions you should ask yourself before investing in video such as “Why do I want to use videos on my site?”


Don’t you wanna’ watch that video? 

While videos can be a great way to increase on-page conversions, they aren’t a cure all for CRO (conversion rate optimization) problems. To see the real effects of video marketing, you need to consider the different instances where they provide legitimate value to your users. 

And you need to keep in mind that when dealing with the most highly consumed digital medium, you’re dealing with the highest-level consumer scrutiny as well. 

The ‘X’ Factor (It Only Works If It’s Awesome)

In terms of the ‘X’ Factor I like to keep these sections unique and focused on the deepest secret to any tactic or strategy discussed on the Xspekt blog. However the ‘X’ Factor for video marketing is as simple as they get: it only works if it is truly and memorable awesome

Video is such a highly saturated and overused medium that the modern day consumers of today’s post-digital world are constantly scrutinizing the quality of the footage, reality of the animation, and authenticity of the script. So you need to make sure that you’re stepping up to the plate on all three fronts - because if not it’s three strikes and you’re out. 

Psychological Video Best Practices (For Live-Action AND Animation)

We’ve taken the time to talk through the pros and cons of each of these digital marketing avenues. Now let’s take a moment to see what psychological trigger points these videos activate in our viewers and how we can optimize their for more conversions and sales. 

Live-action videos are the more human side of digital marketing  videos. Let’s review a few key pieces of advice if you want to incorporate these into your website marketing tactics.

For starters, write a script. Trust me: It shows when you don’t have a script. And if you don’t trust Ricky Bobby. 


You can be a master of a topic being discussed, but not explain the concept clearly, simply, and efficiently to viewers.

Einstein said it best: If you can’t explain it to a 7 year old, you don’t understand it yourself.

After you’ve written your script, you can get started on your set. For live-action videos, this is incredibly important. As a general rule, natural lighting is considered the best choice. But for those of us who don’t have access to perfect outdoor scenery, mastering your lighting and exposure is a must to ensure a quality shot. You aren’t going to hold many viewers' attention with a dark and dingy, blurry video - especially in the world of the iPhone (insert highest number here). 

Don’t be afraid to use some animation in a live-action video, as well.Many digital marketers will agree on the best practice of adding animation or design elements to help explain complex points. Certain topics aren’t easily conveyed through just words. A quick animation or even a screenshot to the side of your speaker can do wonders for making your video more understandable and easily digested.

Lastly, before we get into some of the tips for animated videos, make sure that you keep the CTA to the side of the video. They’re meant to boost conversions by communicating value to your users. So you want to make sure you’re still stressing the conversion as your goal action.


Flipping the coin to the animated section of our blog post, we can discuss one of the most commonly used digital marketing video examples: 


The Crazy Egg landing page video example above is used in countless video blog posts for good reason:


  • It does a great job of providing context.
  • It clearly explains how the product looks, works, behaves, etc.
  • The animation provides an entertaining use-case.
  • The little breaks from reality do a great job of keeping the user engaged in the video.


These little “breaks from reality” are exactly why animated videos provide such creative freedom. 


They allow you to not only communicate the abstract concept you’re explaining, but also allow you to set the tone around your explanation.

But keep in mind that even the most creative worlds need to keep their focus on the primary goal conversion of your campaign. Your CTA should also align with your video’s call-to-action, to ensure a streamlined user experience.

As best as you can, try not to overwhelm users with too much animation that may distract away from your goal conversion. Animated videos aren’t opportunities for you to show off your animation chops. They’re there to boost legitimate performance. And lastly, keep in mind that there isn’t going to be a “human element” on screen for animated videos. So, the voice-over and/or music you use will have a larger impact on users than normal.

Takeaways - Video Is An Investment Not A Shortcut

Now, these are just some of the best practices that can be applied across the double sided video marketing arena. But the most successful campaigns are going to be the ones that dare to be unique - and succeed and implanting their brand in the memories of their users (however that may be). 

Video isn’t a task to be taken on lightly. It’s something that requires careful planning, focused scripting, and a good eye for the right shot. And if you aren’t willing to put in the time to produce a quality product, you most likely aren’t going to see quality results. So put it what you want - in the end that’s what you’re going to see as your video marketing return.

x-act by xspekt

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