Animated video vs. live action: Which is right for your business?

Everybody has their own watching habits. Some like blockbuster Hollywood films with rip-roaring live-action set pieces, while others respect the humble craft of a well-told story and a charming art style. Whatever side of the debate you come down on, there’s no denying that both live action and animated video have their merits. And this can leave you with quite the conundrum when picking between the two.

But Netflix selection arguments aside, how do you decide which is the best-fit format to present your marketing materials? For example, say you’re launching a brand new product — your design team might be all about the live action, ready to showcase their quality craftsmanship in all its three-dimensional glory. Meanwhile, your marketing department may be team animation, demanding memorable, functional assets that can be distributed across all manner of TV, social media and experiential marketing collateral.

Businesses need to assess the pros, cons, and viability of each format before deciding which is right for their brand. So, as specialists in both animated and live-action video production, and participants in many agencies debate over which is superior, we’re here to help.

Here’s our take on the animated video vs. live action debate.

Storyboards for BrewDog

Animated video

We’re proud of our animated video work, producing dynamic videography, animation, motion design and product explainer content for an exciting mix of clients. We’ve already written a full breakdown of what animation is and some of the benefits it could bring to your business — but as a quick overview, you should expect plenty of stylish and memorable video assets to support your brand promotion.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.


1.Creative freedom

As a format, animated video grants an unparalleled level of creative freedom for visual storytelling. This makes it a popular brief to receive in our studio — but also one of the most visually interesting. With animation, our designers can bring any concept to life, both within and beyond the realm of reality.

Animation transcends the limitations of live action, allowing for imaginative narratives that express brand personality, showcase product features, and captivate audiences with memorable content. The level of flexibility provided by animation empowers brands to experiment with their assets, develop characters and worlds, and set themselves apart with a totally one-of-a-kind style.

2.Versatile use cases

A good dose of designer creativity goes into each unique animated video — and this produces some varied results. As a result, animation can be adapted to fit countless different use cases, from product explainer videos that intricately showcase a product’s features to captivating brand stories that forge emotional connections with audiences.

This versatility allows businesses to leverage animated videos across multiple different channels, including websites, social media, and presentations, ensuring a consistent and dynamic brand presence across each touchpoint. The more different ways you share your message, the more it gets heard.

3. Low relative cost

Animated video production is a cost-effective solution that yields a high return on investment in comparison to other styles of video creation, which tend to require bigger budgets. The relatively low cost stems from the ability to create visually compelling content without the need for expensive on-location shoots, actors, or intricate set designs.

So, animated videos offer businesses of all sizes an affordable avenue to convey their message creatively. This supports campaign delivery most of all in the early stages of building a business — but it’s certainly not a tool that gets dropped once you’re making the big bucks, thanks to its plentiful benefits.


1.Potential lack of emotional connection

For all of its appeal, some naysayers argue that animated content offers less emotional resonance than its live-action counterpart. When characters and environments are created in a stylised way, it comes with the obvious double edge that they resemble real people less. In some instances, this means that viewers will be unable to form the same emotional bonds with the content as they might with live action.

And the less emotionally invested your audience is, the less likely they are to be influenced by your video marketing. This could slow or all-out halt their path to conversion.

2. More complex production process

Despite the cost-effectiveness of animation as a technique, the logistics that go into its production aren’t all plain sailing. The complexity of producing animated videos lies in the requirement for skilled talent, detailed planning, and a time-consuming animation process. Securing professionals proficient in animation, graphic design, and scriptwriting can sometimes be more challenging than assembling a live-action production team.

The intricate frame-by-frame animation process demands precision, making revisions and adjustments time-intensive. Together with the iterative nature of an animation production cycle, this could extend your animated video production timelines significantly.

Live action

Real life never goes out of style. When it comes to letting your product shine, it’s sometimes best to present it in its most authentic form — with live-action footage. We’ve produced plenty of live-action video campaigns for our clients, featuring everything from cinematic montages of pints pulled at the pub to exhilarating gym workouts.

So, what are the successes of a good live action? And what are the potential drawbacks?


1. Authentic marketing

Live action provides a distinct advantage in marketing through its ability to convey authenticity. The inclusion of real people, settings and products fosters a connection with the audience by offering a realistic portrayal of products and real-life scenarios where they might be used. Authenticity in live-action video allows businesses to showcase the human side of their operations, making it easier for viewers to relate to the content and build trust in their brand.

2. Fostering an emotional connection

Live-action video is a powerful tool for creating a connection with your audience. When you think about those hearty family-focused ads you see in the run-up to Christmas, you’ll often find that they use filmed human interactions to build empathy and relatability in viewers. Through live action, businesses can create impactful ad campaigns that resonate with their audience on a more personal level.

3. Versatility of the format

Live action is a massively adaptable video format that can be implemented to suit various styles of campaigns. From documentary-style TV spots to client testimonials and high-octane cinematic narratives, live-action videos allow businesses to choose an approach that aligns with their brand personality. The versatility of the format supports brands to create unique content tailored to their marketing objectives.


1. Higher production costs

Producing high-quality live-action videos can be expensive and resource-intensive. Costs may include hiring professional actors, securing locations, investing in equipment, and covering post-production expenses. If you’re producing a high-quality product, there’s a lot of hard work that goes on behind the scenes — and this financial investment can be a significant barrier for smaller businesses with limited marketing budgets.

2. Reduced flexibility

Beyond just the upfront cost, producing live-action video also presents a larger logistical challenge than some other formats. Production often requires meticulous planning, multiple takes, and thorough editing, leading to extended production timelines. Delays can occur due to unforeseen circumstances such as adverse weather conditions, equipment malfunctions, or scheduling conflicts, potentially impacting the timely delivery of marketing campaigns.

Plus, making post-production changes can be more challenging than with animated content. Re-shooting scenes or incorporating significant edits may not only incur additional costs but also disrupt the continuity of the video.

Which type of video is right for your business?

When you’re weighing up the choice of format for your video content, it might boil down to a debate between animated and live-action video. And as we’ve discussed, each comes with its own pros and cons.

Which of the two you select may be influenced by any of the following factors:

Your budget

Live-action video production traditionally costs more due to the expensive equipment, shoots and personnel involved. If you’re working with a small budget, animated video production may be the better option.

Your timeline

When you've got a project timeline to adhere to, you’ll want to make sure you’re shooting, editing and distributing the final product on time. If you have a longer window to work with, you might feel comfortable opting for live action — but when you need a fast turnaround, animation may be a wiser choice.

Your audience

One of the largest considerations in any public-facing business decision is how your audience will react. If your target demographic prefers relatable, authentic presentations of serious subject matter, live action might be favourable. However, if they respond well to creative storytelling or unique visual appeal, an animated campaign may resonate well.

Your purpose

Both animated video and live action have their strengths in different scenarios. Typically, animated video works best for purposes such as explainer videos for tricky concepts, adding creative flair or engaging audiences with dynamic storytelling — while conveying genuine testimonials, demonstrating a product’s function is best achieved with live action.

For example, one of our past collaborations with Brewdog was a product explainer to show off the brand’s bold new line of beers. Animation provided the perfect vehicle to describe the flavours to viewers, just short of handing them a can through the screen.

Partner with Shoreditch Design for your video needs

So, what side are you taking in the animated video vs. live action debate? Either format offers a wicked array of dynamic use cases and endless possibilities to market your business. But what if we told you you didn’t have to pick between the two?

Sure, there’s sometimes only one format for the job — say if you’ve got a particularly hardcore audience to reach who wouldn’t favour animation over live action. But there’s often a viable way to incorporate animated video, live action or both into your campaign and align the final product to your business ambitions. And that’s where we come in.

Our talented bunch of designers are expert visual storytellers, no matter the format you have in mind. Take a deep dive into our portfolio of video work or get in touch for a chat about your design project today.

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