Client Spotlight

Case Study: MSA’s Animated Whiteboard Explainer Video Series

Blake Harris 04.04.2016

Not long ago, we had the pleasure of working with MSA—a leading global manufacturer of safety products—to help them introduce their groundbreaking G1 SCBA.

When MSA designed the G1 SCBA, they worked closely with firefighters to create an SCBA with increased safety and situational awareness. To highlight the G1 SCBA’s features, we partnered with MSA to create three videos in a whiteboard animation style. Below are the resulting videos, as well as a brief interview with MSA’s Jason Traynor and Dennis Capizzi:

The first video focused on communication…

The second video focused on Safety…

And the third video focused on Comfort…


Q&A With: 

  • Jason Traynor: Global Product Business Director, Respiratory Protection and Fire Helmets
  • Dennis Capizzi: Fire Service Marketing Manager – NFPA SCBA

Can you guys tell me a little bit about MSA’s decision to introduce the G1 SCBA with animated explainer videos?

Jason Traynor: When we developed and launched the G1 SCBA, which represents the single, largest new product development initiative in the company’s century-long history, we knew that the technology the platform was built on was going to be a huge factor for our customers. And often times, when introducing new technology, it’s easy to get bogged down in a complicated explanation of it. So we wanted to find a way to take pretty complex technologies and distill them down in a way that would be easily digestible for the ones making buying decisions. We thought back to the real-time drawing aspect of whiteboard animation and how that enables you to present a complicated subject matter in a manner that’s easy to understand, relatable and a little fun. So that was motivation for how we got started.

Dennis Capizzi: As Jason mentioned, we were coming to the fire service with extremely complex ideas and needed a way, or a medium, to be presented in an easily digestible format. Not only for the firefighters who would be relying on the G1 to keep them safe, but for our sales force as well. We wanted to explain to them that this new technology was the result of our listening to them—to meeting the specific demands of fire service personnel—and then show them how the G1 SCBA works and how truly represents an SCBA platform of the future. These are things that you can’t really express through a printed product bulletin, or a brochure, or a white paper, so this was the way to go: to really have an interesting and an engaging launch package showcasing MSA as an innovative and tech-savvy company dedicated to advancing firefighter safety.

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That all makes a lot of sense, but I’m curious to hear what your fellow stakeholders thought at the time. Did they have any particular concerns?  

Jason Traynor: When the subject was brought up, the only real concern was about the tone; making sure that the animation was still capable of touching on serious topics. Nobody wanted the videos to be too cartoony or too silly. So I think the ability for Dennis to drive the tone to match the images and vice versa was vital. I know the group spent a lot of time and effort to get it right. And at least from my perspective, I think the feedback on all three videos has been universally positive.

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As you mentioned, there are three videos (Communication, Safety Features and Comfort). Since they all refer to the G1 SCBA, can you tell me about how you decided to break up the videos to address these different topics?

Dennis Capizzi: That decision was actually based on the feedback we received from the firefighters who would be using the G1 SCBA. Prior to partnering with IdeaRocket, we surveyed firefighters and there were three areas where they demanded improvement.

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Do each of you have a favorite aspect or moment from the videos?

Dennis Capizzi (continued): The first was communication, above all else. Second was safety features. And third was ergonomics; helping put less strain and stress on the firefighters so that they can do their job better. So developing the whiteboards around that feedback was not only a way to highlight these important features, but it was a way to show that we listened to all of their demands. We wanted firefighters to know that you really did build this SCBA with us; you really helped design this SCBA with us. So breaking it up into those three categories just seemed to be the correct path.

Jason Traynor: From my perspective, it’s the part that addresses “on-air” communication between firefighters. And in particular, talking about how this should not be optional, because it’s really vital. I thought that was a great image. I also really liked the scenes that showed MSA employees engaging our customers in the process.

Dennis Capizzi: I’d definitely agree with Jason on the communication between the firefighters; it really demonstrated what we’d been relaying to the field. That idea that “when you go in, we go in with you.” The second aspect that really stands out for me is that sequence about the face piece; when the face piece is drawn and those four images come up and show the very quick and easy to understand benefits, it really hits home on the message we were trying to deliver.

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Jason Traynor: That was a good one. And that’s the feature that firefighters have specifically singled out to us as demonstrating the G1 SCBA’s value proposition.

Wonderful! The last question I had for you guys relates to these whiteboard videos, but is about something larger. It’s about your online presence. Between your YouTube channel, your social media platforms and your overall activity on the Internet, MSA has clearly made a major commitment to cultivating a strong online presence. Can you tell me a little bit about that decision? 

Dennis Capizzi: We understand the importance of online communication. It’s very odd these days that you don’t see someone scrolling with their thumb, so what we’re trying to do is be that thumb-stopper, right? So creating content like these whiteboard videos or MSA TV, or creating engaging content on Facebook—content that will get people to stop and pay attention—that is what’s driving a lot of our media conversation.

Jason Traynor: And just to elaborate briefly on that, this is all really part of a multi-year plan to re-engage and build a more emotional link with our customers in North America. Finding a way for our customers to have a closer bond with MSA; not to see us as a big industrial company, but as a company that really understands the North American fire service. We wanted to reflect that in the way we engaged with our customers. So starting in 2013, we went through a pretty serious re-branding effort, breaking away from the way MSA had engaged with our end users in the past. 2014, was about building up towards the G1 launch, and then 2015—these videos included—was absolutely about engaging the customer and enhancing their experience with us. We worked with a handful of partners and broke away from the “hamster wheel” that we had been on and we were able to knock down some walls and open up options that maybe we hadn’t even considered in the past. And now, this year, we’re seeing significant market share gains. So looking back, I’m pleased to say that we established a solid foundation on which we were able to engage with our customers in ways not before possible.

Blake Harris

Blake Harris is the author of "Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation."
Blake Harris

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