What is whiteboard animation (and how your business can benefit from it)

For thousands of years, people have been using drawings to tell stories. Even now, lecturers use a marker and a whiteboard to explain complex ideas to students. When an animated video is created from sketches, the message becomes clearer and more engaging. This is how whiteboard animation works.

What is whiteboard animation?

A whiteboard animation video is an animated film that is created directly in front of the viewer. It is one of explainer video types.

The recipient of a whiteboard animation film sees subsequent pictures appearing and engages in a story told by a narrator. The story can be about new company products, methods of implementation of its strategy or more mundane things, such as manuals.

Thanks to an appropriate construction of the script, the narrator’s acting and, obviously, drawings, the film draws attention and remains in the viewer’s memory for a long time. That is why videos such as whiteboard animation (also called “video scribe”) are widely used in marketing and internal communications.

An example of a whiteboard animation created by ExplainVisually over 2 years ago.

Where can you find the whiteboard animation useful?

Here are the most popular examples.

Product explanation

The most cited whiteboard animation in the history of the format is Dropbox’s explainer video. Its significance is so great because by explaining the innovative product in a very understandable manner the site’s conversion grew by over 3%.

That was an extremely important step for the whole company. That’s because their website was the main channel of acquisition of the new customers. The financial impact estimations vary depending on the source. Most of the sources state that the conversion boost stimulated by the video increased Dropbox’s revenue by $10–20 million.

Service explanation

Another popular example is Twitter’s video. The animation about the new social platform has been watched over 10 million times. And what’s more important — it made really clear why Twitter is something different to facebook and what are the benefits of using the new service.

As journalists got the idea behind the service it was much easier to create the buzz. And after so many years it turns out that journalists liked it a lot and have chosen Twitter as their main social platform of communication.

Presentation of the marketing strategy

Whiteboard animation is also used by the Fortune 500 companies. Coca-Cola’s Vice President — Jonathan Mildenhall (now CMO in AirBnB) used 17-minutes long whiteboard animation to present step-by-step the new Content Strategy.

Animation has been distributed among both company’s business partners and clients. Everyone has received the same, consistent message. It enabled the company to overcome the Chinese whispers game that often starts when the strategy is communicated from the top management to employees.

Start-up pitch

As the animation conveys a lot of information in a very short time it comes in handy to start-ups as well.

Pitch is a key moment for a start-up. Several minutes of presentation may determine the company’s future. Especially when the company has reached finals of a contest with the main prize of $1 million!

That’s the story of one of my company’s clients. Seegnature — Israeli Insurtech startup wanted to present in a quick, clear and effective way how their service works.

During their final presentation, they showed the film to the jury and… they won the contest and received the check for $1 million! But it turned out they did not get $1 million… their start-up made such an impression that the investment was finally increased to $1.5 million.

But why is it more engaging than the plain PowerPoint or a talking head video?

Whiteboard animation effectively maintains the viewer’s attention

Nowadays, many stimuli compete to draw the clients’ attention. However, the human attentional resources are limited to 7 +/- 2 of information units processed at once for the majority of persons. [1] In practice, it means that the more stimuli reach us, the more of them we process shallowly without understanding them, or we do not process them at all.

In the case of whiteboards, simple pictures appear one by one, without burdening the recipient’s attentional resources. The script’s content is selected in such a way that the storyline goes smoothly. The whole is read by a narrator whose voice supports the process of maintaining the viewer’s attention. Thanks to that, whiteboard movies allow for smooth acquisition of new knowledge on a product, service or project.

According to some people, another advantage of whiteboard animation creations over popular “talking heads” videos is the fact that they are less burdensome to our brains. A substantial part of the brain is responsible for facial recognition and analysis of facial expressions. Determination whether our interlocutor is friendly and which emotions is he/she experiencing is carried out on an ongoing basis during our everyday contacts with other people.

However, in the case of films with talking heads, this results in the fact that we focus on the speaker, not on what he/she is saying. In the case of whiteboard films, this issue is non-existent as we see only pictures that complement the verbal message.

You can see how the brain limits work on your own by doing the following short experiment. 🙂

Whiteboard animation improves memorization

In what way do whiteboard films positively influence fact memorization abilities?

One of the most famous psychologists in the world — Prof. Richard Wiseman — conducted a study in which he showed two types of films to 1,000 people. [2] In one of them, he presented information as a “talking head”. In the second one, he used only a voiced-over whiteboard animation.

The study showed that the majority of participants preferred to watch the animated film and were more willing to share it with their friends. What was especially interesting was the fact that persons watching the whiteboard animation video remembered 15% more information than those who watched a “standard” one.

In the view of the current knowledge on memorizing, this is a spectacular result.

Animated films engage the viewers and make them laugh

Where do those differences in the results come from?

According to Prof. Wiseman, the secret is the ability to draw and maintain the viewer’s attention. It is commonly known that after a boring lecture, students come back home remembering nothing. In order for them to remember the class’s content, they have to get interested in the subject first. Interesting and clear visualizations can help in achieving that.

That is because they give the viewers the “Aha!” moment, thanks to which they feel that a complicated subject has just become comprehensible. This feeling is very pleasant. We sometimes experience it at work, when a long presentation is summed up with a clear diagram, scheme or a metaphor.

According to Wiseman, humoristic presentation is very important as the human brain works much more efficiently when we are in a good mood. This is when it is stimulated to take up creative and scientific challenges. A well-made animated film is also more engaging than a PowerPoint presentation or a uniform text in a PDF file. It allows us to engage persons who would never read an offer or a long article carefully into our story.

Remembering without noticing

In addition, by watching a funny animated film, we do not have to be aware that we are learning something. A film stimulates the area of the brain responsible for the so-called viewer anticipation, which functions in a similar way as when watching a street artist drawing live. The audience tries to guess what is going to happen next. The same happens when you are watching an appropriately-constructed whiteboard animation video.

If the script is well constructed, we activate the so-called “deep processing”. Information received in this mode of processing has a positive effect on memorizing abilities. [3]

But for how long? A person processing information deeply remembers them as well as a person learning it intentionally — that is, by repeating its content in their mind. Thanks to an interesting storyline and an appropriate structure of the script, the viewer can remember the story for a long time. Positive feelings can translate into positive associations with the brand, which usually plays a role of a character in the video.

Even though comic strips at xkcd.com usually visualize difficult issues, there are over 20 million visits on the site every month. The following comic strip is rather simple 🙂


Whiteboard animation films are just animated films created in front of the viewer. Nowadays, this form of communication is used widely by companies and organizations. Its popularity results from a friendly and simple form as well as its great influence on the viewer’s ability to remember the message conveyed.

Although whiteboard animations still didn’t make it to the SuperBowl ads using them can sometimes be very beneficial (we all remember the Dropbox case!).

About the author:

Maciej Budkowski — a psychologist and Marketing&Sales Manager in ExplainVisually. During his studies at the University of Warsaw, he studied the influence of large amount on information on the level of processing. Then, he managed communications in IS-Wireless, a high-tech telecom company. He gave a lecture entitled “The use of visual thinking in building customer experience” at the CEE Marketing Summit 2016.

Originally published at www.explainvisually.co on January 31, 2017.