Idea Blog

PICK OF THE WEEK: Does it Take Money to Make Money? (RSA Animation)

Claude Harrington 01.07.2016

We’ve all heard the expression that “it takes money to make money.” In context, this phrase is generally meant to suggest that one must be willing to take a risk in order to reach a desired reward. It’s inspiring, in a way; this entrepreneurial idea that riches lay in wait for those who believe in something strongly enough to make the necessary investment. But what about for those who are unable to make that investment? Those who willing, but seemingly unable to finance their dream? These questions lie at the heart of our PICK OF THE WEEK: Does It Take Money to Make Money?

This RSA animation is part of Royal Society of Arts series called “Insights,” which researches and explores broader cultural issues. Below we’ll talk in depth about some of the things that we loved about this non-whiteboard-style example of RSA animation. But before we get into that, there were a handful of intriguing facts related to entrepreneurship that help set the stage for how and why this video was created by the RSA Action and Research Centre:

  • Since 2000, the number of people who work for themselves has grown by 40%
  • Nowadays, 1 in 7 members of the workforce are self-employed
  • If you own your own home, your business is 30% more likely to last 3 years or more.

3 Things We Loved About This RSA Animation:

1. The Equilibrium between Specific and Broad: In any explainer video, one of the big dangers is losing audience members who draw the conclusion that “this doesn’t apply to me.” That’s why animation in general is often a more accessible way to reach viewers of diverse backgrounds and personalities. But animation alone isn’t going to insure viewer interest. That animation needs to be done well. And one of the great things that the animation in Does it Take Money to Make Money? does is remain universally viewer-friendly by finely straddling the line between specific and broad.

Consider, for example, how the video begins. With a series of quick, aspirational audio statements that are applicable to just about everyone in the world:

  • We all want to find meaningful work.
  • To be creative.
  • To express ourselves.
  • To do our own thing.

Inclusive, agreeable statements like these are a good way for a video like this to begin. But what takes this opening from good to great is the animation that accompanies these words.

Not only are the characters diverse, but so too are the objects (and ambitions) depicted in the thought bubble above their heads. We see a pen and a camera, and then a beaker, smartphone and game controller.

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With the exception of maybe the game controller, all of these objects appear to be perfectly calibrated between familiar and abstract. Like the camera, for instance. We all recognize this brandless-camera, but even though it’s specifically drawn it feels almost like an abstraction; few of us actually use cameras like that any more (and professional photographers use something even more specific), but the image works as almost an icon for the romantic notion of photography as a whole. Same with the pen, and even the palmpilot-ish phone. And they were intentionally designed this way to find that equilibrium between specific and broad. As a result we get the best of both worlds: iconic images that still seem tactile and part of this world.

2. Expressive and Impactful Character Design: It’s not necessary that you “like” the main character/s of an explainer video, but it rarely does it hurt. Especially when dealing with something more conceptual than a product or straightforward service. But as marketers often learn when trying to present something as “cool,” presenting somebody as “likable” takes more than just a smile.

We like characters who we can relate to, but also those who are different enough to earn our curiosity. So how is it possible to capture both elements at the same time?

One way that the animation goes about accomplishing this is by using the power proximity. Look, for example, at the characters depicted in each of the images below and then ask yourself what they all have in common…

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None of these characters are featured particularly up-close. We meet them through a series of medium and long shots. By introducing them to us in this way, we can recognize (and relate to) them from afar, but not so much so that a sense of intimacy/familiarity robs us of our curiosity.

This is the cast for almost all of the characters in the video, but there are a few that are featured a little bit closer than those above. Like this woman…

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But even in these more intimate shots (which still, it should be noted, aren’t particularly close-up at all), the animation clever uses expression to create an air of mystery. Like with the woman wearing a VR headset: we see her in a relatively detailed way, but don’t see her eyes or have any idea what she’s looking at. As a result, we can’t help but be intrigued by that tiny smirk on her face and, by extension, where this video will take us next.

3. Visual and Emotional Metaphors: Idioms, Smiles and Metaphors play a large role in how we relate to the world. In live-action storytelling, it can be problematic to visually rely on these things because they feel too fantastic or unrealistic. In animation, however, metaphors work much more naturally. And in the best cases they not only help convey the content of the subject matter, but they can also impart some of the emotional sentiment as well.

This is something that Does it Take Money to Money? does extremely well. There are numerous examples throughout the video, all of which are skillful and worth watching. But one section in particular stood out above the rest.

It begins at the 1:29 mark, when our narrator asks, “So why does wealth matter so much?” Well, as this RSA animation explains, here’s why:

Wealth buffers people from unexpected events…

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Money helps tide people over as they find their footing…

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And it fills people with confidence, arming them with an almost magical feeling like they were born to win.

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To see more RSA Insights, visit the Action and Research Centre’s YouToube page.

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