We live in a post-Pixar age. The viability and effectiveness of animated video is already well-established, and that’s why many videographers also well-connected with animators.

But perhaps because animation and live video are traditionally different industries, business video tends to lean strongly towards live-action rather than animation. This could be due to a lingering prejudice against animated videos, an idea that they’re “just for fun”, the gimmicks of startups and sole proprietors, and that serious businesses should stick with live video for marketing. Or it could be that many businesses feel that animation just doesn’t suit their marketing vision.

Whatever the case, it’s hard to argue with the fact that animated videos (especially 2D) are cheaper for most purposes.

animated video production

As this handy little graphic from AgentsofValue shows, animated video is just as effective as live action, but all-around cheaper. That’s because when you choose animated, you’re choosing to save money on actors, sets, and crew.

But if this is really the case (and it is), then why the hesitance to switch to animated for business video?

We think it has a lot to do with a lack of qualifiers and statistical evidence surrounding the actual engagement of animated business video. In other words – knowing animated cartoons are engaging to 4-10 year olds doesn’t translate to automatic engagement for adult consumers, investors, or shareholders. Where are the numbers for that demographic?

Fortunately, CITE (Contemporary Issues in Technology & Teacher Education) did a fairly in-depth, albeit small study on the effectiveness of animated video compared to live action.

In the study, 55 preservice education students at a large, southwestern public university were selected to watch either a 1987 training video called “Cooperative Test”, or a similar animated video. Both videos were 1 minute 26 seconds in length, and basically show a student cheating on an exam (the video is meant to be used be education instructors to generate discussion on various real-world classroom situations). The animated video took over 500 hours to produce in order to accurately mimic the eye movements and expressions of the real students in the original video.

classroom videoanimated classroom video

As you can see, the 1987 video is very outdated – everything from the video quality to the students’ dress is anachronistic, whereas the animated video is much smoother, higher quality, and true to the times. CITE used this basic distinction to point out an overlooked advantage of animation for training videos – animated videos have a much longer shelf-life, and can easily be adjusted to account for changes in fashion/environment, whereas a similar change to a live-action video would involve a costly reshoot.

In order to determine the effectiveness of the animated version of “Cooperative Test” versus the live-action version, a short 10-question survey was developed for viewers. Questions were attention-based and tested whether viewers noticed specific eye movements and interactions between students in the video. Of the 55 viewers, 27 watched the animated video and 28 watched the live-action video.

As it turns out, there was no noticeable difference in terms of attentiveness. It was easier to notice eye movements in the live-action video and easier to notice body movements in the animated video, but aside from these minor differences engagement rates and correct-answer responses were equally spread between the two videos.

CITE’s study is too small to have wide-ranging application, but it does go to show that animated video is as good as live action video when it comes to engaging an audience for training purposes, and that animated video is actually more cost-effective on a long-term basis due to differences in “reshooting” costs.

Takeaway: Animated video is not only cost-affordable, it’s also as effective for training purposes as live action.