Our animation: a peek behind the scenes

6 minutes to read

Today is International Animation Day! To celebrate, here’s a peek behind the scenes of an animated video we made to promote Key Portfolio.

The background

Back in early 2015, we were getting ready to launch a new brand for our flagship product, Key Portfolio. It provides Umbrella employment for contractors – I suppose you could call it a ‘niche’ service. Part of our role is to help people understand what it actually is, as well as how it can help them.

In the past, we mostly used words to achieve this. But the beauty of our new brand was the flexibility it gave us to to present information in a more digestible way. We’ve always tried to make our service as easy to use as possible, and that starts way before someone actually joins.

We decided that the simplest way we could introduce people to Key Portfolio was with a short animation. It would become the centrepiece of our homepage, as well as a tool for recruiters to use with their candidates.

The process

One January morning, we sat around the table with MadeBrave, a Glasgow-based creative agency. To get started, we had to nail down exactly what we were aiming to achieve.

As we talked, the story we wanted to tell took shape. By lunchtime, we’d written a brief.  We were creating an advert for Key Portfolio. It would have to spark enough interest to make someone want to find out more. And because people are busy, we’d be condensing it all into two minutes. Easy? Let’s see.

The first step was writing the script. It turns out that 120 seconds isn’t a long time. Words must be used wisely and every phrase needs to pack as much punch as possible. In the end, all it took was a professional scriptwriter, a few lively debates, the odd late night and a couple of breakthrough moments, and version 12 (!) got the green light. There may have been a few celebratory high-fives that day.

It was exciting to be giving our brand a real ‘voice’. It didn’t take long to find an actor who was natural, warm and trustworthy – an ideal representative for us. Gemma also recorded the messages for our phone system, helping us create brand familiarity.

With the script committed to tape, it was time to bring it to life.

The day we first saw the storyboard, I knew for sure this was the best thing we could be doing. Straight away, I could see how much work the images would do to flesh out the script.


Next, it was illustrated. When words started to combine with images, our message became far stronger. The visuals emphasised and backed up every sentence spoken. When the animators got involved and those images started to move, it took it up another level again.


As Gary Smith explains: 

It’s incredibly important to us that we ensure candidates are fully informed about our service and the benefits it provides. Even just initially seeing the story board, it was immediately clear how the animation was going to help us do this job in a far more engaging and condensed way than we’d been able to before. Then to see it become illustrated, then animated, then with the voiceover, then with music and sound effects. At every stage of the process, another layer was added on top and the message got richer and richer.”

To demonstrate what we mean, here are my top five favourite moments from the animation:

Sick pay

 Here to support your career

One of the most important things for candidates to know is that we’re here for them. In fact, we can support them with their contracting career in many different ways. In the video, ‘we’ are represented by a little blue circle that envelopes people who join Key Portfolio and takes care of things for them. It gets across the idea that although we’re not physically with them, we’re still there to help and provide a service.


Contractor community

When someone joins Key Portfolio, they’re welcomed into a huge contractor community. In the final scene of the video, we see some of those people represented on screen. Then we zoom out, and they spin around in a circle and form part of our logo. For me, it sums up how integral our contractors are to our brand.

MKP887- 5

Contracting advice

Key Portfolio workers have access to our team of experts, who can assist with all things contracting. The animation uses a couple of techniques to demonstrate this. First, we see someone phoning us, while all the possible topics he could talk to us about scroll past. There’s also a fun scene a little bit later, in which a contractor experiences what we like to call a ‘Mary Poppins moment’. When he talks to us, his surroundings magically become brighter and more organised.

MKP887_Centralised Income
It’s pay day!

Animation made it easy to explain what happens when pay day comes around. In the past, we’d use arrows to show that we collect funds, deal with tax and National Insurance and make payments to bank accounts. And that if you work with more than one agency, we centralise your income under one tax code. In the video, it takes about 15 seconds to explain the whole thing.


Jetpack Jenny

We’ve all grown to love Jetpack Jenny. She represents the ‘boost’ of stability and security that Key Portfolio adds to contracting. She adds a touch of playfulness, but she has an important point to make too. There are a few ‘just for fun’ moments throughout the video, but you’ll have to spot them for yourself! Since Jenny’s debut in the animation, she’s starred in many more marketing materials. It’s helped us create a consistent and recognisable brand for candidates.

The result

The finished animation is a friendly, informative video that explains our service and how it helps contractors. It’s the perfect introduction to Key Portfolio.

We encourage everyone who joins to watch it. We’ve even taken it on the road, showing it to candidates at open days and conferences. By the time those two minutes are up, if the service is right for someone, they’re hooked.

It’s become a training tool for new recruitment consultants too. It had its debut at a presentation the very day that our new brand launched. Since then we’ve used it almost daily, at webinars and training sessions.


We’re finding that not only does it help us, but recruiters love it too. It’s a useful tool to have when you’re sitting in front of a first-time contractor, trying to explain the concept of an Umbrella service. After all, it was designed for situations when you’ve only got a couple of minutes to show someone why they should join Key Portfolio.

As Mark McNee says: 

“We know recruiters don’t have time to learn the ins and outs of our service, and they don’t have to. Agencies tell me that our animation is the simplest and most effective introduction to Umbrella for their candidates. If it sparks their interest, they’ll encourage them to talk to us to find out more. The video is one of the resources in our Consultant Toolkit, so it can be easily integrated into a meeting with a new candidate.”

So, now you’ve heard what went on behind the scenes, all that’s left to do is show you the video. Enjoy:

Recruiters – feel free to show this video to your candidates when they come in to register with you. It’s also worth sharing it on your blog, website or social media to reach people online too. As always, give me a shout if there’s anything I can help with.

International Animation Day is celebrated on 28th October each year.