Applying Andrew Reid’s Advocate Advice to Animation

Published a while back was a post over on Fast Company by Andrew Reid that’s all about fans, or rather, fans and influencers and the ease at which both are interchanged and confused. The concept of fan and fandom is often used on this blog, but when it comes to culture, it is harder to distinguish between fans and influencers because they are essentially one and the same. Nobody proclaims love for an animated property for the sake of influence unless they’re paid. Reid brings up many interesting points, but he also lists a few rules that animation studios would be wise to consider. Let’s Take a look.

What Fans Really Define

When we discuss fans and fandom within the confines of animation, we really mean the vast majority of people who just happen to like a particular show or film. In our minds, they are as much advocates as they are fans, and the vast majority of them accept criticism that is warranted.

While Reid uses the term ‘advocate’, it’s hard to see where such people fit into the world of animation. Jeffrey Katzenberg is an obvious advocate, but he’s clearly got something to gain by doing so. Can ordinary people be advocates for animation? Arguably, bloggers are to an extent, but where to draw the line between them and pure fans? It’s blurry, complicated and unlikely to be resolved any time soon.

Coaxing Influencers, or Rather, Fans

Where Reid’s article is wholly appropriate to our cause is in the guidelines it gives to giving advocates a nudge, or the coaxing they need to be more efficient. For animation, (normal) fans would fulfil the role of the advocate. They’re quite accurate; let’s dive in!

Don’t fake the funk

Fans of Sonic the Hedgehog have been caught by this trap far too many times. Pixar is the role model; promising on, and delivering stellar films continually delight fans. Walt Disney was also aware of it; he aimed for, and demanded, perfection with every picture. The brand and company he built with the results are a testament to its mportance.

Never incentivize

How are animation fans incentivised? Well, freebies constitute and incentive and while it can fool kids, adults are wise. A once-off or exclusive is a form of incentive, and they can have similar results. Ever buy an item with an ‘exclusive’ or ‘limited-edition’ extra? That’s an incentive. A real incentive is something that a fan can truly value but it likely won’t substantially grow your brand or revenues.

Don’t sweat NPS

For an animation studio, feedback from fans is much more valuable.

Give them a voice

This is something that studios excel at relative to other industries. There are fan sites all over the internet, and corporate efforts like D23 illustrate how studios can get in on the act too and succeed. It also pays to listen. While you don’t have to blithely agree with everything you hear, fans can give honest feedback that can steer decisions and make them work in your favour.

Ambassador programs are underutilized

Do animation studios even have ambassador programs? Well, sort of. While they don’t have the kind of programs outlined in Reid’s article, they do utilize their characters as ambassadors t great effect.

Could humans fill a different void? What about adult fans? Consider again the service Tugg and its goal of setting up screenings that are essentially organised by fans for their own benefit. The link between it and this point is that whoever organised the Tugg event is an ambassador; they want to entice others to see the film they love. The fact that they are doing it honestly is what prevents them from being mere salespeople.

Animation studios could fo a lot more to have local fans advocate for them in some official way. (They’ve been doing it unofficially for decades with group screenings and conventions.) What could they be?

Concluding Remarks

Fans of animation are, in a way, essentially forced into being advocates thanks to the marginalisation of the technique in mainstream entertainment. Anything that can be done to help them from an official standpoint should.

  • Andrewk

    This year I have read about companies swaying to the complaints of fans more than any other year. Disney took down their Merida redesign in the Princess line-up because of the FANS. The XBox One was pulled and was promised a revamp because of the FANS. I’m glad more and more studios aren’t just being ignorant.

    • http://animationanomaly.com/ Charles Kenny

      Absolutely, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that fans know what’s best for the brand. There still needs to be a degree of deafness on the part of studios to ensure that fanboys don’t ruin things for everyone.

  • http://www.aceandson.com/blog Richard O’Connor

    I was hoping this was going to be an article about NFL head coach Andy Reid.

    In all seriousness, he’s a great example of managing an organization well but ultimately having it turn badly. The organizational 360.

    I think there are volumes to be learned from the management of professional sports (gridiron football in particular) that is directly applicable to the management of animation film production.

    But in the words of Hall of Famer Marv Levy: “If you listen to the fans, you’ll wind up sitting with the fans.” Even if a production’s goal is to purely rake in money, people are drawn to product because of how the artist/creator interprets what they’re already feeling. Straying too far from that yields limited returns.

    • http://animationanomaly.com/ Charles Kenny

      Great advice Richard.

      Yes, fans sometimes forget that they are essentially a subset of the entire audience and are most likely a minority of the same. Studio’s need to foster fan communities but they’re under no obligation to be subservient to them.

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