An animation studio can make money on advertising orders only if such works can be put on stream, having achieved a constant load. A team of three people is able to produce about three commercials per month, providing a turnover of 10 to 50 thousand euros. But for now, studio owners can only dream of such a systematic disposal of people and modern equipment …
With all the greatness of the traditions of Soviet animation, a full-fledged animation market in Russia has not yet developed. Most players are looking for sources of income – from banal advertising to the production of “adult” cartoons and mobile content.
In February 2008, LMH Consulting creative director Igor Ganzha became a co-owner of the Antimult Msk flash studio. Having bought out the share of one of the former directors (according to some reports, the transaction amount could be up to half a million dollars), Ganzha joined the project, the annual turnover of which is estimated to be about $1.5 million. Ganzha is going to justify these investments by expanding the production of content on orders from TV channels: “In my opinion, television should become the most profitable area of work for our studio, although I am interested in both viral marketing and advertising.”
Among professionals, Antimult Msk managed to achieve fame thanks to active cooperation with the media. In particular, the studio prepared illustrations for the Advertising Industry magazine and the mail.ru portal. From the point of view of promotion, the design of the television program “Evening with Tigran Keosayan” also worked well. Natalia Ovchinnikova, General Director of Antimult Msk, is sure that partly because of this, it became possible to adjust the pricing policy: “The strategy of working with customers at cost was relevant for us two or three years ago, in the process of entering the Moscow market. Now Antimult Msk no longer undertakes work at cost, which allows you to get only a PR effect.
Participants of the Russian animation market are learning to make money. For some, it really starts to work out. In addition, investors are more and more boldly investing in large-scale animation projects. The tape “Ilya Muromets and the Nightingale the Robber”, released by the studio “Melnitsa”, collected a record amount at the box office last winter – nine million dollars. By Russian standards, this is a success, and no small one at that. It is likely that just such prospects force the owner of the Smeshariki brand and the Marmalade Media company, Ilya Popov, to direct part of the profits to the development of the Petersburg animation studio, which already has about 350 employees. The market is young and promising to grow. So, there is every reason to build plots on it.
Strictly speaking, the most profitable niche for animators today is advertising. Commercials are found in the portfolio of the vast majority of animation studios in Russia. Melnitsa, which had tasted real commercial success in the field of full-length epic animation, did not disdain creating advertisements for Nikola, and the Chinese manufacturer of household appliances BBK electronics.
Alexander Timofeev, director of computer animation studio Toondra, considers advertising to be the most profitable business for a small studio. At one time, Toondra released several successful music videos, including the video of the Leningrad group for the song “My name is Shnur”. But, alas, musicians are not always able to adequately pay for the work of animators, while advertising agencies serving well-known brands are always paid according to the contract. “After our clips received many awards at animation festivals around the world and received broadcast on MTV, we began to receive many proposals from musical groups,” says Timofeev. “But the reality is that musicians often don’t have enough money to do things the right way.” In this sense, orders for the production of advertisements for Corbina Telecom and new projects for restaurateur Arkady Novikov are a much more predictable occupation in terms of income. Even if Timofeev claims that he “does not seek to make money at any cost”, preferring to do projects for his own pleasure.
Everything would be fine, but only in the television advertising market, animation is forced to fight with a powerful competitor – video spots. Indeed, in the lower price segment, animated advertising is clearly inferior to videos in terms of cost. The cheapest video for a regional TV channel, ordered not from a network agency, will cost the client about five thousand dollars. Even the most accommodating studios are not ready to drop below $ 400 per second. The rule of “24 frames per second” has not been canceled. So, for the production of a 30-second video, one way or another, you will need to draw 720 frames. In addition, a team of three animators will work on such a project, which will take at least two weeks.
Frankly speaking, there are still cheap animations on the market. The lowest bar is $50 per second, or $750 for a 15-second video. However, in this case, the client will receive a minimum of detail. There won’t even be a background. After all, every little thing in the frame lengthens the process and makes the product more expensive.
However, representatives of the animation workshop are ready to argue with the illusory, in their opinion, idea of the cheapness of conventional television commercials. “The advantage of animation is that even when working on the most expensive project, we do not need to take the animator to the Bahamas. As a result, the upper limit in an animation product is limited to $30,000,” says Maxim Vasiliev, director of client relations at Paprika Branding.
According to Maxim Vasiliev, an animation studio can earn money on advertising orders (rather than plugging financial holes) only if such works can be put on stream, having achieved a constant load. A team of three people is able to produce about three commercials per month, providing a turnover of 10 to 50 thousand euros. But for now, studio owners can only dream of such a systematic disposal of people and modern equipment. Clients are still extremely reluctant to agree to animated advertising, considering it to be something frivolous. Stereotype? Maybe. However, as you know, the customer is always right. And this just means him, the client, the sovereign right to stereotypes.
By the way, such an attitude towards animation is not at all “Russian specific”, but a reflection of the status quo that has developed in the global advertising market. At the international advertising festivals in Slovenia, and in Cannes as well, the animation works submitted for the competition make up 1-2% of all the videos shown. And so from year to year. Even in countries with a developed animation market – Sweden and France – customers prefer more traditional filming technologies. So, in search of customers, Russian animators trying to get on their feet sometimes have to gnaw each other’s throats in tenders.
Of course, each studio still has a theoretical chance to exist at the expense of one or two large customers whose advertising strategy is built precisely on animation, which means the need to create regular works. However, dependence on a narrow range of orders is a risk for any business. So close to bankruptcy, when no resuscitation will help. That is why Russian animators take on everything today, not shunning either animated postcards ordered by Internet portals or corporate presentations. There is only one way to break out of this circle – to make your way to the vastness of television. However, this path is thorny to the point of impossibility.
Getting on TV
To some extent, animation has always been present on TV channels. Today, a special product is in vogue – animation for adults. Two of the largest commercial studios in Russia, Antimult and Tunguru, relied on the production of such content. And, oddly enough, Katya Pushkareva, the heroine of the series Don’t Be Born Beautiful, became the “godmother” of both projects.
After the release of the sensational sitcom, the Tunguru studio received an order from the producer of the series, Amedia, to produce an animated series – a parody of the story of Katya Pushkareva. “The first episodes of Umanetto were really made to promote the show. The bet was made on the genre of parody as the most successful. But it soon became clear that the animated series in itself is able to attract an audience. So now we are preparing the second part of the series for the release by order of Amedia,” says Nikolai Tikhonov, head of the web direction at Amedia.
The first episode of the Umanetto cartoon was aired by CTC with great success, which became a reason for Amedia and CTC to continue the project: twenty new episodes of Umanetto-2 will soon be released on the screen. At the same time, Amedia plans to order one more series for the Tunguru studio, aimed at the 16+ audience.
A modest girl with glasses, Katya Pushkareva, also helped the Antimult Msk studio to demonstrate its capabilities to the whole country on the STS channel. By order of the channel, the animated series “The Big Day” was created – a parody of the STS sitcoms, which advertised the elections on December 2, 2007. The studio managed to get this project due to the fact that the STS management was promised a record short production time and … record low amounts. Dumping? Rather, the ability to see opportunities that open up. After all, fame requires some effort. But all this is just the first signs.
Natalia Ovchinnikova is sure that Russian TV channels have not yet tasted the spicy taste of cartoons for adults: “The market for ready-made domestic animation for adults in Russia is not yet developed. TV channels are very cautious about trying such animated products, but they start investing in them already at the production stage.”
Why are TV channels only “beginning” and generally being cautious? After all, for example, animation fits into the content structure of STS and TNT quite naturally. It’s all about the high price. The cost of one hour of a well-made cartoon is about 200-300 thousand dollars, which is at least twice as much as the production of one hour of any series or sitcom – a favorite product of these channels. As for the current appetites of TV channels, they are ready to broadcast animation for adults no more than 5-10 minutes daily. So the only channel that is more or less ready to buy adult cartoons from Russian animators today is 2×2.
Natalya Vashko, the former CEO of the 2×2 TV channel, was highly respected by Russian animators, as she repeatedly confirmed her readiness to promote the appearance of domestic content on the air. However, the new head of the channel, Roman Sarkisov, also speaks of his intention to support this line and even expand the circle of contractors:
– Channel 2?2 is extremely interested in showing Russian cartoons for adults. We are going to organize a competition among independent animators and artists, as well as among professional studios. But we expect from them, first of all, ideas, and not “budget development”.
But Sarkisov cannot yet directly answer the question of whether 2×2 is ready to adequately pay for the efforts of animators and buy out the rights to the content being created. Unless he notes that “the main thing for the channel is the quality and freshness of the proposed idea.”
As animators familiar with the situation confirmed, the management of the 2×2 channel is indeed ready to finance the work of Russian animators, however, it is looking not so much for partners as for contractors capable of producing a product without claims for further copyright ownership. Moreover, 2×2 plans to open its own animation studio.
— We plan to create our own production company within the channel. But in any case, we will wait for the results of the competition, ”Roman Sarkisov told Business Journal a couple of months ago. Well, he does have a wide range of choices. According to the animator.ru portal, about three hundred small animation studios operate in Russia today. And each of them is ready to turn somersaults of any complexity, just to get a solvent, large client.
Most likely, among the three hundred studios there are quite a few that will agree to the unconditional transfer of copyright to the customer. However, fairly large studios do not like this option too much.
— For a studio, work commissioned by a TV channel means, as a rule, the loss of rights to the product. If the TV channel pays money, it prefers to own the future cartoon masterpiece. Yes, and you can make money on TV only by producing a “fast”, and therefore – a lower quality product, – Ilya Popov, CEO of Marmalade Media, is sure.
In 2007, when launching the Percemolka animation studio, the Paprika Branding agency offered its services to Channel Five to create animated screensavers. But it turned out that the project is not economically viable. The price the channel was willing to pay was equal to the cost of the product.
Another dead end? There are optimists who assure: not everything is so bad for Russian animators. Non-terrestrial TV is developing in the country. This means that new customers are also appearing, who are also experiencing an acute shortage of content. According to Nikolai Tikhonov, Head of Web at Amedia, the future of animation is new distribution technologies, the Internet, IP telephony and mobile TV. “We rely on the widest distribution of animated content. The appearance on TV is a powerful, but far from the only media opportunity for the distribution of animation, its profitability and success,” Tikhonov is sure. By the way, “bypassing the air” Amedia has already launched the NonStopTV portal, where the viewer can see, among other things, a full set of animation products created by order of Amedia.
Khabib Abdullayev, director of the public relations department at Sistema Mass Media, one of the leading operators of pay TV and Internet access, also says that Russian animators can earn and become famous bypassing terrestrial TV. Today, Sistema Mass Media is actively investing in the creation of its own TV channels broadcasting in mobile networks. Together with Skylink, five such channels have already been launched in Moscow and St. Petersburg: Drive, Hunting and Fishing, Retro TV, Healthy TV and Usadba. This means that the launch of a new animation channel is quite likely. “Animated films can have advantages if they are made specifically for mobile TV and take into account the characteristics of an adult audience,” says Abdullayev. “However, it is clear that people will not watch only cartoons, even if they are for adults.
Russian animation studios have more and more opportunities to earn money. And yet, many of them have to be discussed in the future tense. And it is not a fact that the peleton of Russian animation will enter this very bright future in the current composition.