David OReilly is
infamous for the unique style of animation in his personal films and the particular brand of comedy that inhabits them. As an independent animator, David is a master at understanding how they become a brand onto themselves and he uses it to his benefit. Such a move is often the result of necessity but rarely is it pulled off with the pastiche that OReilly manages. With his latest venture, David illustrates yet again, how independent animators can engage with fans and earn a living at the same time.
OReilly has acquired an audience (or devoted mass if you prefer) through his short films and commercial works. These include the films Please Say Something, The External World and his initial foray, Octocat. Videos for the likes of U2 have heightened his public profile among non-animation fans too.
These fans not only provide an audience for every new thing that he creates, they also function as his makeshift publicity department. The advantage to this is that word of mouth is by far the most reliable and effective form of advertising even if it may take a while to reach large numbers of people.
Acquiring fans is one thing, but OReilly also manages to keep them, chiefly through continually honing, improving and experimenting with his craft. His reasons for not repeating himself bear remembering in this regard and his ever increasing profile within the animation industry is proof of that. They will culminate later this year when his episode of Adventure Time hits the airwaves.
Although fans are important to any independent animator, it is necessary to interact with them and continually present them with new and exciting material. The risk is that if you do not, they will move on to somebody else who does.
OReilly is only one Irishman however, and animation being the slow process that it is, it would be impossible for him to create new animated films constantly and within short time frames. Instead, he opts to create new animation when it is possible, and in between, keeps his fans happy and engaged through other, non-animated creations.
OReilly’s twitter and instagram feeds exemplify his unique sense of humour and provide the primary channels of engagement. They are a practically free way of maintaining his profile without any additional cost to himself.
David is also the master at engaging his fans in conversation through them. A clear example was his recent pondering of why critically acclaimed content garners tiny viewership on YouTube and yet videos of cats can garner millions. His response was as much genius as it was entertaining: he posted a video of puppies and then decried it as a despicable act for which he was truly sorry.
The result?Nearly 12,000 views but a ton of interactivity with fans as they eagerly entertained the notion that the video was ‘disgusting’ even though it clearly was not (click to enlarge):
The upshot is that OReilly kept his fans engaged and interested in him without having to revert to creating new animation.
The T-Shirts That Combine Fans And Content
The latest idea (and the one that prompted this post) was the recent announcement that David had designed 40 T-shirts. “OK, so what” I hear you say, “that’s not a big deal”. Well, no, it probably isn’t, but since he has decided to also sell them, it sort of is.
Why? Well quite simply, these T-shirts bring fans and content together in a way that allows OReilly to make money. Firstly, the T-shirts are a way of proving that he values his fans and secondly, they adhere to David’s unique style without the need to create new animation. The result is that you have happy fans, with a David OReilly creation and all without the need to create expensive, time-consuming animation!
Of course the true genius of these T-shirts is that they exhibit not only OReilly’s unique sense of humour (and his desire to lead a Comic Sans revival), but also his interest in animation too. Observe:
Needless to say, the use of these copyrighted characters would fall under the parody rule of fair use.
(no pun intended)
What is there to be gleaned from all of this? Well, a few things:
- OReilly creates animation that garners fans of his work
- He engages with his fans on a constant basis
- He creates non-animated content as a way to satisfy fans until new animation can be created
- The content he creates is exciting and of equal quality to his animation.
The result is that David OReilly succeeds at things where plenty of others fail. Yes, anybody can create a T-shirt and sell it online without much overhead, but simply offering T-shirts is not enough. Neither can you rely upon merchandise sales alone to bring in money or keep your fans engaged. Again, simply offering it is not enough. David demonstrates that you must keep fans ‘primed’ for new content and when you deliver, it must be exciting enough for them to want to purchase it.
In addition, the T-shirts themselves are broad enough in appeal so that non-fans and people who may have never heard of him before will get to know him; i.e. they will grow his fanbase. Imagine that, growing the potential audience for your animated properties without creating any new animation. Genius!
Although by no means a model that can translate to any and all independent animators, what David OReilly conducts is a high-wire act that constantly entertains his fans, keeps them engaged and interested in what he’s doing. the result is that he can create merchandise that not only sells, but increases his profile further. He is a model for others to follow.