I am a fan of the use of true photography as I feel it is easier to make a connection with the consumer if they can relate to the advertising. As much as animation and illustration are effective at conveying a sense of being or an emotion of some type, they are still rather removed from the consumer. They are effective at conveying humor and other emotions, but a connection can only be made through real, true to life photography. The consumer needs to be capable of seeing themselves in the ads. As many people have criticized the Internet of being unable to provide an emotional connection, this evolution of the creative product provides a better means of bridging this gap.
Another thing to note is that photography stands out more on the page, and especially when you incorporate motion into them. I've recently seen ads on CitySearch and on Ain't It Cool News that made excellent use of these styles. These ads popped on the page and drew my eye in closer to them. These types of executions, coupled with expanding ads or roll over ads are extremely effective, and these types of ads in a pre- or interstitial are even more effective.
The consumer is drawn to the real world. The online world has typically been viewed as one of technology and fantasy. The Internet is a community of real people, so why can't the advertising be more like the people who are using it? I was speaking with our Creative Director a few weeks back, and we both agreed that an online ad unit should not represent a picture on a digital page but that it should represent a window into something that goes far beyond the digital page upon which it is placed. It should be a gateway to something that the consumer understands and can connect with. This is how we convey emotion and this is how we can create effective advertising.
Look at it from the other side... what are your favorite television ads or print ads? How many of them are animations vs. photography? Which are stronger at speaking to you?
I recently saw a TV commercial for AFLAC that featured that annoying AFLAC duck in a Warner Bros. cartoon. Though I understood the ad and thought it was funny, I still find the annoying real life duck to be better than the animated version. I definitely understand this is a matter of opinion, and it's not completely applicable as this is a strong campaign in and of itself, but the executional differences between the two commercials do speak to me in different ways and I find one to be more effective than the other.
Even the world of animation has a goal to be more photographic in effect. The work of companies like Pixar and any other animation house seems to push in this direction, don't you agree?
What do you think about the evolution of animation to photography?