Cloud-based explainer video tools versus a visual storytelling agency: which one is right for you?

Whether you’re a pharma marketing manager or medical communications manager, every day you need to package information attractively for your target audience. Explainer videos can have an enormous impact. But who will write the storyboard? Who will animate the video? And why can’t you just do it yourself with some cheap software? Why bother explaining everything to an agency? Indeed, simple cloud-based video tools like Doodly and VYOND are easy to use and make videos that look pretty good. But will they give you what you need?

Cloud-based tools have a lot going for them:

  • Moderate costs
  • No coordination with an agency needed
  • Ability to implement your ideas 1:1 without writing a brief or giving detailed feedback

If you work with an agency to create an explainer video, the costs are higher at first glance, but several advantages can offset them:

  • Lower investment of your time
  • Video tailored to your audience and your company’s design guidelines
  • Collaborating with experts in didactics, storytelling, animation, and post-production
  • Getting an editable clean feed and translations, so your video can be used internationally

Your choice depends on how you will use your video and who will see it. Are you just trying to update your team on some recent changes in communication strategy? Or are you trying to educate your company’s MSLs and physicians worldwide about the pathophysiology of a rare disease?

Ask yourself:

  1. What subject do I want to cover?
  2. How much time do I have available for the project?
  3. Will the video need to be updated or translated in the future?

The following figure can help you make the right choice.

Your topic

Subject matters. Cloud-based tools depend on image libraries that don’t usually have all the molecules and cells needed to explain a disease’s pathophysiology in detail. The graphical styles are also limited, meaning you’re out of luck if you need to follow your company’s branding or unbranded, med comms guidelines. An agency can tailor the design and visual story to your topic, your audience’s level of knowledge, and your company’s visual identity.

Your time

No less important is how much time you have available. With cloud-based tools, you can create video quickly. But just how quickly depends heavily on how experienced you are with the software and how well you know the principles of graphic design and animation. Different tools assume different levels of proficiency.

Conception should not be underestimated. Writing and referencing a well-structured story with a catchy voiceover and developing suitable image ideas takes time, experience, and focus. Just drafting the first version of a storyboard for a 3-minute scientific explainer video can take between 24 and 40 hours of working time. Feedback rounds with colleagues and resulting adjustments require additional effort. This all takes time that you probably have better ways to spend. Working with an agency will let you allocate your own time where it will have the highest payoff for your company.

Your video’s future

You may not know right from the start, but it is important to consider whether this is a one-off, short video you will show to employees of your company at a single meeting or a video that your team may use for years in different countries with different audiences in mind. Inevitably, whether it is for translation, or for re-approving a video after its initial two-year approval has lapsed, you will need to make post-production adjustments. This can quickly compound the workload, time, and costs of your video, if you decide to go the DIY route with a cloud-based tool.

Let’s imagine one employee at your company puts a lot of time into learning to use the tool and makes an explainer video. A few months later, they leave the company. When the video needs to be updated, other employees will have to learn how to use the tool to make the changes. But if an agency creates an explainer video, you just need to tell them the updates needed and order them. Same goes for translations. Rather than teams worldwide needing to learn how to use a cloud-based tool, they can order a translation from the agency who produced the video or use a clean feed to translate the video with a local partner.

Bottom line: you need to consider how broad your potential audience is before you decide if a cloud-based tool or working with an agency makes more sense.


Cloud-based tools are compelling today, and you can quickly produce simple explainer videos with them. Still, you need time first to choose the right tool for your own needs, get familiar with the tool of choice and, of course, produce the actual movie. Especially when it comes to molecular processes or visualizing study data, these tools quickly reach their limits. And unless you are a talented hobby filmmaker, the highest return on the investment of your time will come from briefing a specialist agency to get a high-quality explainer video.

Do you have any questions about explainer videos?

If you work in pharma or biotech, and you’re looking to use explainer videos to support your communication objectives, we would love to hear from you. Whether you have a specific project in mind or you’re just looking for guidance, click below to get in touch and learn how the power of visual storytelling can work for you.

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