Grabbing people’s attention online isn’t easy. We’re constantly faced with visual distractions, notifications and incoming messages. Competing with all of this isn’t an easy task for designers, especially when trying to communicate a new idea or product that requires an explanation longer than about three seconds. Bringing people to read a lengthy product description or to watch a live video of someone talking is not a simple task. So, how can we successfully conquer this generation’s dwindling attention spans and get more eyes on our brand or product?

This is exactly where motion graphics enter the scene. As a very varied tool that offers so many possibilities, motion graphics are a great way of creating promotional videos for all kinds of products. Other than gaining an understanding of some of today’s top motion graphics trends, here are all the basics you’ll need to know on why and how to create a promo video using motion graphics:

What is a promo video?

Let’s start from the top. As the name clearly suggests, promotional videos are indeed used to promote a brand or product. They often give insights or explanations on the company and can also be used to encourage viewers to perform a particular action, such as clicking onto a specific website or entering a competition. They can be made using a variety of mediums and methods, from live footage, to motion graphics created with stop motion, CG, After Effects compositing, 2D or 3D techniques – or a combination of pretty much all of the above.

Facebook Factory, by Buck, is created with mixed media, using live footage, plus 2D and 3D animation techniques.

Promotional videos are all about visual storytelling

Whether you’re developing a promo video for a law firm or for a dog-walking app, the creative process is about telling your products’ story using visual techniques. Experiment with taking apart the product to gain a true understanding of its essence and benefits. Then, you can find the best way to put the pieces back together and communicate the product’s story both accurately and visually, making it appeal to and intrigue a wide audience.

No matter what kind of product you’re creating a promo video for, you can find the right method to present it in an enticing way. Production company, Buck, have got it absolutely spot on, with this video for health insurance company, Bridgespan, made using motion graphics. Does the idea of reading an ad for health insurance fill you with excitement? The likelihoods are you answered “no”, but this ad shows us how a seemingly dull and heavy subject can be transformed into a fun, light and colorful video using motion graphics (plus – a ghetto blaster and amazing transitions never did anyone any harm).

Buck’s promo video for health insurance company, Bridgespan.

Benefits of using motion graphics

No one can deny the wonderful creations that can be made using live footage. But with constant updates in technology, motion graphics now offer such a wide array of possibilities. Here are some of the benefits:
You can do it all yourself: Although the field of motion graphics comes with its own set of challenges, it does offer the possibility of working alone. This is unlike other video making techniques that normally require a whole team of camera people, make-up artists, costume designers, etc. Instead, you have the freedom to work alone, or in a small team if necessary.
You can work from anywhere: The fact that you can work alone also means that you can work from anywhere you like in the world – a big plus for freelancers. All you need is your laptop, a touch (or more) of skill and motivation, and preferably, a wonderful view.
Cut costs and save money: Shooting a live footage video can get very pricey, as you need to buy or hire filming equipment, lights and props, as well as probably pay other people to help you out – not to mention closing up whole areas for filming, pyrotechnics and more special effects.
You have the freedom to create anything: With motion graphics, you don’t have to rely on the tangible world, so there are no limits when it comes to creating visuals depicting anything your mind could possibly imagine. Want to show two people riding a giant cat-like figure? Or an email that turns into a ball and goes on a cyber adventure? No problem! This video transforms technical information into a fun and easy-to-understand visual explanation of Wix Shoutout, an email blasting app.

This video, created for Wix Shoutout, visualizes the journey an email goes through once the user hits the ‘send’ button.

Step by step guide to creating a motion graphics promo video

Now that we’re all keen to get going on a motion graphics masterpiece, here are the key stages involved in creating a promotional video:

1. Start with a brief:

This creates the basic framework, so it’s important to ask the right questions. Other than thoroughly understanding the product, from its benefits to its target audience, explore questions like: what makes this product different? How is it better than its competitors? Once you have those answers, you’ll know which information to include in the video and you can start exploring different concepts and ways of passing across the relevant details.

2. Write the script:

This is when you take the product and create a story out of it. It’s a little like how you would tell a story to your friend, but this time, your friend (a.k.a. the audience) isn’t necessarily automatically engaged. That’s why you should break it down into parts – a beginning, middle and end, plus one very important element: the hook. The promo video below, created for Wix Bookings, an online booking system for your website, tells the story in a way that’s both informative and relatable. On the one hand, we experience the product visually through a specific person (a yoga instructor), and on the other hand, the narration explains the product in a more general and instructive way that everyone can understand.

A promo video created for Wix Bookings.

3. Devise an attention-grabbing hook:

Today, everything is just a click away and people don’t have the patience to stick around. The hook is your answer to that. It’s designed to grab the viewer’s attention and intrigue, which is why it should happen within the first five seconds of the video. It also makes sure to focus on the relevant audience, instantly clearing away those that aren’t interested. Here are some techniques for creating a successful hook:
– Ask a philosophical question, such as ‘is happiness a state of mind or just a chemical activity in our brain?’.
– Present a problem, such as ‘aren’t you sick of always having to wake up at 7:00am?’ – and then attempt to solve it throughout the video.
– Share an interesting fact or joke.
– Create a relatable character that the viewer can empathize with.

This video for Asana, directed by Oddfellows, draws you in with an intriguing statement right at the beginning.

4. Plan each stage with a storyboard:

Create a storyboard with a rough sketch presenting each scene. If there’s supposed to be narration, add the text at the bottom of each scene, or if not, simply add a few words to explain what’s happening. This will improve communication with your team members and decrease the chance of misinterpretations.

5. Use style frames to give a sense of the visual language:

While storyboards are essential to get a full sense of the story and timeline, designing style frames that look like the real thing is also super useful. Create two or three style frames that help you or your client envision the look and feel of the final result.

6. Design each scene of the storyboard:

At this point, you take all your rough sketches and transform them to look the way they’ll eventually look when they’re animated. When designing for animation, remember to take into account movement, rhythm, cause and effect, breather frames and timeline. If you’re also the person working on the animation, you might prefer skipping this part and getting straight to it.

7. Convey the right sensation using animation:

There are endless elements to play around with here and different styles conjure up different feelings within the viewer. Try leading the viewer in the direction you want by adjusting the pace of the animation and the animation style. For example, a stop motion style may create a rough or emotional sensation, whereas a bouncy animation style could feel light and joyous. Transitions also have a key role in portraying a sense of character. See how transitions in the video below, created for the ‘Celebrate Pride’ campaign by DeviantArt, affect the video’s overall feeling and sense of fluidity:

The video created to promote DeviantArt’s ‘Celebrate Pride’ campaign.

8. Identify the right music, sound effects and narration:

This final teeny tiny stage is, in fact, super important to get right, so don’t forget to give it as much thought as any of the other steps. Consider everything from your narrator’s voice, to the subtle background noises and sound effects. These can be used to help your viewers understand the animation better, or to emphasize any elements that you want them to focus on. It’s like eye candy, just with sound. 

Whether or not you’re rushing off to create a stunning motion graphics promo video masterpiece, remember that what brings us together as designers from various fields is our aim to tell a story through our work. Even if you’re not creating a piece with a clear plot and timeline like in most video work, you can implement this guide and way of thinking in any kind of design project.