How Headspace Struck Content Gold With Soothing Animations, Voiced by Its Co-Founder

They've been viewed more than 85 million times on YouTube

The meditation app's quirky animations have generated a legion of fans.
Headspace

Andy Puddicombe’s voiceovers for Headspace, the guided meditation platform he cofounded eight years ago, aim to put users in a thoughtful, receptive state of mind.

Last year, to make its programs more accessible to the masses, the company teamed up with production house Nexus for a series of animated videos. Puddicombe, a former Buddhist monk with encyclopedic knowledge of the subject matter, narrates the short films.

His unassuming delivery and smooth British accent work in harmony with the campaign’s playful, often cheeky visuals. (Rather than the characters being rendered in realistic fashion, they tend to resemble brains with skinny arms and legs.)

The most recent installment, “Training the Monkey Mind,” dropped on March 30. “It’s quite normal, when we start to meditate, for the mind to jump all over the place,” Puddicombe’s narration begins. “Fortunately, the mind can be tamed … by having an awareness of when our attention has wandered off, and gently bringing it back with a kind and friendly hand.”

The scripts for each video “began as me telling stories that I’d heard in the monastery, just off the cuff and recording them,” Puddicombe tells Adweek. “Then Rich Pierson, my co-founder (and Headspace CEO), suggested we bring them to life and animate them. I loved the idea, and watching them evolve over time has been incredible. I also love showing them to the teachers at the monastery.”

In “Letting Go of Effort,” the most watched Headspace clip, with more than 28 million views on YouTube alone, Puddicombe advises viewers that driving yourself hard doesn’t always yield the best results. Sometimes, he says, it’s better to “let go of any idea idea of needing to achieve something or get somewhere” to clear the mind and sharpen the senses.

All told, Puddicombe has narrated 40 videos included on the Headspace app. Sixteen of those clips, each slightly more than 1 minute long, are also posted on YouTube, where they’ve generated 85 million combined views so far.

“I think the fact that most of the recording work I do is unscripted makes a big difference, so it feels more natural and conversational."
Andy Puddicombe, Co-founder, Headspace

“The narration comes first,” he says. “I’ll do a scratch recording, and then the team will type it up and tighten the script if needed. They then storyboard it and we’ll discuss as a team before it then goes to animatic. We then pause and make any changes before it goes to full animation and we make any final V.O. tweaks.”

Naturally, he employs meditation “to settle the mind to ensure I sound clear, no matter what type of recording I’m working on.”

One of his favorite clips teaches folks “How to Be OK With Dark Thoughts” that may intrude during the meditation process. Here, Puddicombe’s trademark soothing, offhand approach takes the sting out of a potentially unsettling topic:

Throughout the series, Puddicombe’s relaxed, earnest vibe really shines. He seems like your favorite teacher speaking off-the-cuff after class, or a trusted friend you’ve met at the pub for some guidance on the path to enlightenment.

“I think the fact that most of the recording work I do is unscripted makes a big difference, so it feels more natural and conversational,” he says. “And although the animations are now scripted, I don’t really feel like I’m reading them as such, more reminding myself of the flow and idea. I suspect my training has some influence on the delivery, but whatever the case, I’m happy just being myself in the studio and hopefully people will enjoy it.”

You can check out this story from Creative Review for an in-depth look at the production process, and open your mind to more Headspace videos below:

CREDITS:

Nexus Executive Producer: Julia Parfitt
Headspace Producers: Lauren Pham, Stephanie Gocke
Nexus Producers: Mariano Melman, Electra Fotopoulou
Headspace Senior Designer: Chris Markland
Nexus Design Team leader: Matt Oxborrow