Animation that doesn’t break the bank – ITV’s ‘Don’t be a Nick Head’​

Don’t be a nick

“Don’t be a nick” is the humorous, and no less important, play on words sitting at the heart of ITV 4’s Covid-19 advertisement. It is an extremely unassuming advert comprising of a handful of stock-type images, some basic animations, voice over and text on the screen. Nevertheless it remains a simple, effective and relevant way of promoting the channel during this period. In order to understand it better, let us break down this advert into its narrative, tone and form.

Its narrative is fast paced, straight forward and incredibly relevant. It essentially follows a man, Nick Head, who is disobeying the rules of social-distancing and staying home who in doing so endangers loved ones and strangers alike. It preys on all our nagging wants over this period—the want to purchase something specific, be with friends and simply be out in the sun. In doing so it reinforces the necessity to sideline these acts for the greater good. Such narrativisation of the whole nation’s, if not the majority of the world’s, current everyday restrictions is a fantastic way to create a relatable advert.

But on top of this simple socially relevant narrative sits a light and humorous tone fundamental to reinstating this message we have all heard hundreds, if not thousands, of times over the past two months. The self-explanatory play on words, of course, toys with the inability to curse during daytime-TV, while providing satisfactory messaging-fodder to send to those around us who have such urges to disobey the guidelines. Thus the playful but relevant tone presented within the tag-line aids in the advert’s ability to exist outside of the context of television and thus draw on a greater audience.

The meat of the advert, as with any video, comes in its form. Here we find a relatively rough-and-ready approach that is relatively cheap to produce while in the comfort of ones own home. Nevertheless, the animation of stock-images, text on screen and simple voice over all work in tandem to transmit a quickly digestible narrative, message and joke. Moreover, the inclusion of slickly simple motion graphics reduce difficult visual concepts, such as the spreading of the virus, into palatable visual information. Such a choice of format is, undoubtedly, lead primarily by the current Covid-19 restrictions, and to ensure the advert isn’t hypocritical by breaking social distancing rules in its production. Regardless, it remains relatively effective because in the stead of crisp visuals it foregrounds a short narrative and a sharp, witty tone. As such, the basic animations and still images spring into relative life.

This breakdown of Don’t Be A Nick Head may seem somewhat simple, but that is the very essence of the advert—and its greatest strength. It does not aspire to present groundbreaking aesthetic eye-candy, it doesn’t vie for incredible audience affect, nor does it even attempt at delivering a nuanced message. Instead it takes a quick, humorous poke at the frustrating situation we are all in, providing a little comic relief, a catchy tag line and a simple alternative to today’s struggles—just relax and watch TV. Of course, one could argue heavily against this concluding message, but through its effective utilisation of limited resources, tools and pizzazz it quietly hits home the message of social distancing while promoting ITV to boot.

In short, it perfectly reflects our current social frustrations but perfectly balanced with a much needed dose of good (if not slightly riskay) humour. It’s a perfect example of how animation can be both produced relatively simply yet remain hugely effective in delivering a serious message. Well done ITV. – Let’s hope the Nick Heads take note. 😉

Post by Andrew Sones

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