Find Out How This Animation Startup Is Helping Brands Tell A Fantastic Story

Updated on 20 July 2017

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Find Out How This Animation Startup Is Helping Brands Tell A Fantastic StorySea Monster is a Cape Town-based studio that creates animation and gaming content to enable brands to communicate their own unique brand message – whether it is through apps, adverts or training materials.

Animation, because of the seemingly endless possibilities it offers and its creativity, has been used to great effect to market everything from cereal to banking solutions and is one of the “most versatile and prolific mediums available to marketers today,” according to The Marketing Society, a global network of marketers.

Launched in 2011, Sea Monster has done work for big local brands like Old MutualWoolworths and beyond SA borders, for the BBC, Google and international animation giant, Disney Europe.

Sea Monster was this year selected among one of the most innovative businesses in the country. They were finalists at the 2017 FNB Innovation Awards, together with opinion mining company, BrandsEye, online home cleaning management startup, SweepSouth and ThisIsMe, an identity management and verification tool, among others.

Glenn Gillis, Sea Monster CEO and co-founder, says they are able to give clients the competitive edge by going straight to their customers’ hearts.

“Making an impact requires research to get into the heads of employees and customers to create the stories and characters that are believable and relatable to them – storytelling is a deeply personal interaction, after all.

“But whatever the objective, animation allows for research-based training interventions that draw on established facts on how the visual, aural and even interactive achieve harmonic resonance, and have a behavioural impact greater than the sum of their parts,” he says

While still a relatively small industry in South Africa, Gillis says animation holds plenty of opportunities. It is an industry he believes has potential for incredible growth and the ability to create hundreds of jobs in the next year or two, he said in an interview with Moneyweb.

To illustrate the true power of animated storytelling, Gillis takes us through 4 of Sea Monster’s biggest campaigns.

1. PICK N PAY, Super Animal Cards – South African Super Animals is a Pick n Pay collectible cards campaign featuring South African wildlife including the Big 5. Customers got a card every time they spent more than R150.


Following the success of the campaign, Pick n Pay partnered with Sea Monster to develop a mobile gaming app version for an element of surprise and to add further engagement to the campaign.

Gillis On Why This Campaign Works: We had an ongoing conversation with Pick n Pay and they wanted to give back as much value as possible to customers during difficult times. It really came from a good place. They wanted to drive business, but also to look at how they can add value for their customers.

One of the ways that they could do this is through instant loyalty programmes. The underlying concept is actually owned by a Dutch company. We set up a relationship between us and the Dutch company and we took the existing idea and used augmented reality and gaming ideas to bring the visual element to the experience and it absolutely took off.

This was so successful and innovative that the Dutch company is working with us to take the idea internationally. The idea is to think BIG! We can work with ideas that are globally relevant, that can be considered innovative anywhere in the world, and can work in any market.

In the gaming category, it was the single largest box office record set in South Africa. The three big outcomes were that parents were delighted because it provided interaction between real world and the digital, it was an educational thing about animals and their environments. Kids were delighted because they could brag about how much they knew, their knowledge and how many cool features they could unlock in the experience that we’ve built, and Pick n Pay was happy because it drove their supply. The lesson was education can be a massive strategic opportunity for companies.

2. OLD MUTUAL, Moneyversity – Moneyversity is a financial education platform that educates people about money through animated illustrations.​

Gillis On Why This Campaign Works: Moneyversity is the single biggest success the company can point to.

For Old Mutual it was all about making a market as opposed to taking a market, in other words, how do they bring people under the age of 30 into the financial space?

They’re doing it for their own interest, but really what they’re selling is that they are a trusted provider of financial education and their hypothesis is if they can provide access to financial education in a way that is engaging, visual and in bite-sized chunks, people will trust them as a brand, and they will grow their market and they themselves will benefit.

It sounds very obvious, but there are many rabbit holes that we can fall down in. The temptation is to sell to people too soon on it, but the research is clear that you need to earn people’s trust before they will buy from you. And that’s not just our research, but it’s a well-established premise globally.

It’s more than a campaign, it’s a long-term strategic plan with the idea behind it being to move away from a quick marketing sell, and rather have a conversation with people around a community.

3. PWC, KAOS Horizon – The PwC campaign is aimed at determining an individual’s value system in order to provide accurate insurance for customers.


Gillis On Why This Campaign Works: Their challenge was around assessments they supply to their clients – what [a client’s] value systems are. Traditionally the way these (measuring) instruments are designed is quite Westernised. They use English and will say ‘are you more like this, or that?’ So one of the challenges is that they’re not necessarily able to look at the underlying points they [should] be assessing.

In this case we want to look at your value system as an individual. So, we’ve worked with the innovation team and essentially created a “choose your own adventure” solution. What happens is you get placed on a planet, [you are told] how the planet works, and you have to make various choices: would you do this, or that? So, it’s your own adventure that you choose in this super cool 1950’s retro space theme.

[The campaign also] helps position PwC and their clients as being innovative and attracts new clients into their organisations.

It’s been a phenomenal success. It’s early days still, but all indications are that they’ll be doing more of this.

4. MEDICLINIC – Pei Survey – Mediclinic partnered with Press Ganey, a patient experience research company to create a survey to measure patient satisfaction. They needed an animation company to help them bring their concept to life, this is when Sea Monster was contacted.


Sea Monster partnered with Now Boarding and New Media Publishing to create the website as well as all animated content including an explainer video demonstrating how Mediclinic’s PEI survey works. The survey communicates complex data in a way that is user-friendly and easy to understand.

Gillis On Why This Campaign Works: With Mediclinic, it was about Big Data. People are talking about what it is and what it means. What it means is there is a point when I have a lot of information and I don’t know how to convey that in a visually engaging way.

They collected patients’ survey data which is around the experience people have at their hospitals. So, they want to report on this and share this internally.

We designed an interactive website which is driven by little animated clips. It was a good example of how we can use the power of animation to bring alive what would have been perhaps quite [a lot] of information, how else would you present this information?

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