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Deep Dive Breakout 2: The Art of Animation for PACs and Advocacy

October 27 @ 11:30 am - 12:30 pm

Animations and motion videos help us explain complex ideas or liven-up stale messages with humor and emotion. Watch some creative peer examples and learn how easy it is to concept and script your own animation across a range of budgets. Panelists will also share how they disseminate this type of material to key audiences.


Learning Objectives:

– Share examples of motion, video, and gifs. and the process to develop these, start to finish.
– How do you work with designers who may have no understanding of advocacy?
– What are some tips for working in-house vs externally?
– Discuss lessons learned and incorporate real-life metrics


Speakers: Casey Kincheloe, Trey Hawkins (CUNA), Eleni Almandrez (CHA)


  • Animation Examples: Process Start to Finish
  • Trey Animation Overview
    • Since the January 6th Insurrection, there’s more attention from donors than ever before. Increased press interest and paused giving have disrupted the PAC process.
    • After January 6th, CUNA paused all contributions (both parties) for about two months, then conducted a top to bottom review. Ultimately, CUNA reaffirmed its original policy of supporting candidates who support their issues but added additional ethics and integrity requirements. Conversations, Town Halls, and donor focus groups contributed to this new system. 
      • Takeaways from the donor focus group included a need for transparency into who CUNA PAC donates to and why. 
      • The membership had a sense that while there was a process, they didn’t know or understand it. After January 6th, they wanted to.
    • To respond to the increased interest in PAC fundraising, CUNA created an instructional animation to help explain its process to members. 
    • Making the animation lighthearted was a priority given the heightened tension within the PAC donation space.
    • A strong state association is at CUNA’s core, so including those state leagues in the animation script was a priority to help explain to potential donors the local input that goes into PAC decisions. 
    • Development process:
      • Drafted the script in-house
      • Outsourced the animation through a political communications firm that had animators.
      • The imagery was extremely intentional
        • Examples: clouds around the capitol, candidate scorecards
        • Flags like animated people unintentionally looking like real legislators were played close attention during the development process. An early draft came back with dollar bills raining down on the Capitol, the CUNA team had to flag that this wasn’t the right nuanced messaging. These are the type of flags that as communicators we often need to make to animators who aren’t in the weeds of messaging.
    • Distribution:
      • Previewed with the Board of Trustees.
      • Shared to donors via email lists.
      • Posted on the new website that rolled out on a similar timeline. 
  • Eleni Animation Overview
    • CHA needed a soft advocacy visual to aid for web and social media that educated lawmakers about children’s hospitals. The goal was to create a friendly video summarizing the great work of our nation’s children’s hospitals.
    • The pandemic made the decision to go with an animation easy because real-life footage is difficult to collect at this time. 
    • Process
      • CHA hired an animation house that has a robust history of making these animations.
      • Sought diligent internal approval, which needed to be included within the timeline. 
      • Storyboarding helped with internal approvals early on, to avoid editing a finished product. During this phase, things like a wine glass at the dinner table were flagged as inappropriate details for a healthcare provider.
      • Details like nodding to telehealth were important to include given our current pandemic lifestyle. 
  • How do you work with designers who may have no understanding of advocacy?
    • Elleni seeks our agencies with lots of healthcare clients. Consulting with in-house designers allowed her to collect feedback, and she conducted her own research to see who in DC was available. She asked the firm for a list of their clients to vet the agency, she then was able to contact network connections she had who had used the agency. Questions she asked included timelines, communication, and final product quality. The process is similar to an interview process. She then held a kickoff meeting with the entire design team and the marketing communications team at CHA. She sent them a one-pager of things to avoid saying, like the red cross sign that some hospitals have, which are nuances that the designers wouldn’t know unless informed.
    • Trey selected a firm that had an advocacy focus. He landed on a firm that was new and “hungry,” but also had experience on work with a local focus. There was a comfort level that came from the firm’s political background. Talking to voters is very different than talking to trade associations and PAC donors, but the experience helps. CUNA also invested in market research about the subject ahead of time, which they were able to share with the animators before design began. Connecting the designers to this research allowed everyone to align on the key messaging and the problem to be solved. Multiple check-ins also allow the project to stay on target and allow for a productive feedback loop. 
  • How do you choose to go in-house or use a vendor?
    • Elleni chose key dates and then worked backward to create a timeline. The first step was checking the capacity of the internal team and making sure they are able to take on the project.
  • Lessons learned and incorporating real-life metrics?
    • Trey learned that the CUNA team could benefit from being more proactive as opposed to reactive. By being reactive, moments may pass you by. Animation allows you to move quickly because you can avoid in-person interviews, which helps with proactivity. Additionally, the assets become reusable. 
    • Casey mentioned that it’s important for people to speak up when working with agencies. It’s much easier to fix things when the animation is in the planning phase as opposed to near a final product. This dialogue also makes your agency more able to work conversationally and collaboratively, which will lead to a stronger final product. 



  • When do you find that animation is best used?
    • Elleni recommends using animation when an important piece of information needs to be conveyed, but the delivery needs to be softer. 
    • Trey recommends animation to convey complex issues in a more simplistic way. Additionally, it can be more attention-grabbing than a talking head. 
    • Mike Panetta mentioned that when filming is too difficult a task, animation works well. Additionally, specific metaphors are really well conveyed when animated. If a process is visualized, you can use an animation.
  • Did Trey get feedback from PAC eligibles about the video?
    • Most of the feedback was positive. CUNA works with a 60+ person PAC board, which he was also able to hear from. The PAC board reacted well when the video was displayed over Zoom for them. Had the PAC board not received it well, they likely would have reevaluated the approach. 
  • How did you make the selling point to create the video? What metrics helped convey ROI?
    • For Trey, the video budget is fairly flexible because it’s part of a long-term awareness plan. His budget was somewhat built-in for this reason, but he used market research about a need for increased transparency to help as a selling point. Metrics are very difficult, but for these instances, he tries to avoid specific metrics but looks at potential fundraising dollars.
    • Elleni had time on her side due to a year+ gap in new animation. She was also new to CHA, so she was able to pitch her creative ideas. 
    • Shana Glickfield mentioned that thinking about expectations in advance for the video can help. It’s hard to predict what will move organically and what will need some paid, it’s helpful to leave some of the investment for promotion. She often sets things as organic to get a gut-check in response and then may set some micro boosts on social. This can depend on the audience, because some clients make huge animations but have a very niche audience of Hill staff, for example. 350 views might look small, but for this audience that’s a great result. Additionally, platforms like Facebook may count a view as 3 seconds, so you’ll want to pay extra close attention to average view rate and video completion. 
  • What tools did you use for the design process?
    • Trey’s team did scripting in Microsoft Word, and the animation team would send a link where you can scroll to certain breakpoints and leave comments. This was useful for a client to give timestamped feedback.
    • Elleni was given the choice of Vimeo or Dropbox. She chose Dropbox, and left comments directly in there. 
  • What kind of message do you think works or doesn’t work in animation?
    • Trey has found that emotional storytelling is effective. There’s no replacement for emotional authenticity, so for these stories, real-life video is best. For non-personal narrative, that’s where animation can come into play more. A softer advocacy tone may be better for animation than an emotional personal narrative.
    • Elleni found that anything overly cartoony or overly happy harmed the tone of the video. A lot of attention needed to be paid to the animation style, given a serious subject matter. 
  • Question for Casey: Do clients often come to you with a defined tone and message?
    • Often. Using mood boards is helpful to align with the client’s tone and messaging early in the process. Often clients come with an idea they can’t solve internally, and we’re able to provide that guidance and ask the right questions. 
  • How do you navigate the sound effect process? 
    • Elleni found that a wide internal review allowed members of her team to hear things that she may have missed. Anything that distracted from the message was ultimately removed. These sounds should carry the story, not distract from it.
    • Trey’s team played close attention to the tone of voice. For his animation, finding a voiceover artist with a calming and authoritative tone was a priority. 
  • Question for Casey: Any advice on how to choose music?
    • Using words that sound descriptive, even if it seems awkward, is the best advice. As a designer you’re trying to read minds, so anything like “I want it to sound like kids playing on a basketball court” is different from words like “energetic” or “playful.” As descriptive as possible is better. This is also a good opportunity for the client to speak up early about what they like and don’t like. It can be difficult to change music once you’re far down the road, as this can relate to the timing, animation, and voiceover. Music can often speak to the arc of the video, so sometimes choosing music that has a positive and action-focused arc can be best. 


October 27
11:30 am - 12:30 pm
Event Category: