May 13

Apple demos the power of creativity

A wise man in advertising once said that 90% of the world’s ads failed before the creative team even got the assignment. Not enough time was spent first honing the strategy.

Fair enough.

However, one can’t diminish the importance of the creative execution. Because there are a hundred ways to bring a strategy to life, and it takes talent and smarts to do this well.

With its newest commercial for iPhone, Apple (or, I should say, agency TBWA\Chiat\Day) provides a wonderful demonstration of the power of creativity — the ability to take a simple idea and turn it into a stunner.

Some say this might be the best iPhone ad ever made.

What this commercial does so well is capture the human side of technology. It’s a reflection of daily life, and it’s easy to see ourselves in it. The ad shows us how essential our phones have become, enabling us to capture the people, places and images we don’t want to forget.

I say this is a great example of the power of creativity because …

Well, you feel pretty great about iPhone when the spot ends — even though it provides no distinguishing reason to buy one.

The spot is based on emotion rather than any features that set iPhone apart from its competition. Just about every phone on earth has a built-in camera these days, many of which offer quality similar to iPhone’s.

The voiceover wraps it all up by saying: “Every day, more photos are taken with an iPhone than any other camera.” By comparing to individual competing models, Apple gracefully eludes the reality that there are a ton more Android phones out there, taking a ton more photos.

I don’t say these things to diminish the commercial. I’m a huge fan of it. I’m simply pointing out the power of great creative. Without relying on a single technology-based advantage, Apple successfully creates a commercial that wins your heart.

When we talk about Apple being “the most human technology company,” this is exactly what we mean. Taking the emotional route, and doing it with class and quality, can be at least as effective as screaming about new features.

Also, it’s important to note: great creative work often looks easy — when in fact it is anything but. It’s difficult to get everyone to sign off on an ad that’s purely emotional. It’s super-hard to come up with so many realistic scenarios with believable actors, and then edit them together to make sense. The use of repeated flashes in this spot is particularly artful.

And this is a 60-second commercial. Most companies aren’t willing to invest in longer spots when they can get “more for their money” with a 30-second spot. They’re willing to give up the greater emotional impact to get the spot on air more often. When you value creativity, you’re willing to spend more to do it right.

Steve Jobs didn’t believe in cutting corners when it came to creative work. To me, this spot is reassuring proof that his values are alive and well at Apple.

As competing devices mature, and their differences become less obvious to the non-experts, a company’s ability to create provocative and memorable advertising becomes all the more important.

In this measure, Apple has an advantage. And it’s an advantage that’s not so easy to copy.

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  • Hugo

    Thank you for writing this.

    I especially enjoyed this part:

    “And this is a 60-second commercial. Most companies aren’t willing to invest in longer spots when they can get “more for their money” with a 30-second spot. They’re willing to give up the greater emotional impact to get the spot on air more often. When you value creativity, you’re willing to spend more to do it right.

    Steve Jobs didn’t believe in cutting corners when it came to creative work. To me, this spot is reassuring proof that his values are alive and well at Apple.”

    This is so true.

  • McClain Watson

    It is interesting you post about this today. I just saw the ad last night and it took my breath away for all the reasons you mention. Each of the clips in the ad seem so authentic/true to life. Even though IRL it sometimes irks me to see people taking photos of ‘random things’, the ad reframes that behavior as a simple human expression of curiosity, enthusiasm, and life. I’m an Android guy but this ad is just magical.

  • Ricky

    I loved this ad throughly when I first saw it perhaps two weeks and thought it truly sets a new standard in mobile phone ads and Apple ads. It’s simplicity and the strength of the message that the iPhone is so entrenched as part of our lives, as a tool that helps us document the smallest details, and as an source of inspiration for creatives, is really breathtaking.

    Your insight on how this ad come into place, and Apple’s role and viewpoints, is equally lovable.

    Thank you for sharing all this, once again.

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  • RedMercury

    It’s a nice ad…though I like the Kindle one better.

  • This is not only the best ad that Apple has created since Steve Jobs died, but it might be their very best ad in the history of the company. Only the iPod silhouette ads and the Get A Mac ads come close to this.

  • As Ken said, thank goodness that Steve’s values are still alive & well at Apple. This ads proves that, beyond any shadow of a doubt.

  • The ending — little girl in the pink bunny suit — is just the cutest thing – sewed it up for me.

  • qka

    And yet most Apple ads (in the last 10 years, say) have been 30 second ads, while the competition (MS, Android) have been 60 second ads. In those competitive campaigns, Apple has usually been able to say much more in half the time. E.g. “I’m a Mac. And I’m a PC” vs. various MS responses.

    Ken – could this have worked as a 30 second ad?

  • It’s a great ad. I love it. And just like other things I love, I can’t explain why and it doesn’t matter.

  • Given that the top 3 devices used to upload photos to Flickr are iPhones, I don’t think “the reality that there are a ton more Android phones out there, taking a ton more photos” is necessarily true.

  • ksegall

    I’m not saying that :60 is always better than :30. But when it’s right, it’s right. And it takes some nerve to pony up for it.

    You’d have to see a :30 before you could really judge it. I’m sure they tried it both ways and decided that the :30 didn’t have the same power.

  • ksegall

    Exactly. Some things can’t be explained scientifically. You either feel them or you don’t. That’s what humanity is all about

  • zootsoot

    Find this ad pretty underwhelming and forgettable. Reminds me more of people trying to ruin a “moment” by capturing it on their bloody phone. When compared to many of the marvellous John Lewis ( UK ) adverts it falls down rather blandly.


  • ksegall

    I don’t agree with you about the Apple spot — but I do love the links you sent. Great moviemaking. Thanks, wasn’t aware of them.

  • zootsoot

    I was probably being a bit harsh ( or patriotic ) as it is well made and delivers the punchline well.

  • Another well-written article about this ad.


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  • Nameless Coward

    Perception is reality. And the majority does not know of the Flickr statistics. The majority does know, however, that there are more Androids out there, with camera’s on them. Again perception is reality.

    They add agency does a great job of avoiding the ugly Android invested reality and presents another more beautiful one to the viewer while steering away from the aforementioned ugly reality.

    Most ppl think 1-dimenstional. Put one thing in front them and they wont see the other thing, even when it is connected.

    I partially blame commercialism.

  • Nameless Coward

    Touching. I love the add.

    The great feeling of a early morning, who doesn’t love that? The sound of the tall grass in the opening shot sounds so nice. The add gently picks me up and starts out with the feeling of renewed energy. And gently starts building on the emotion with stronger more powerful emotions.

    All the while avoiding the standard wedding shots. Or the cheap ‘it is always sunny in our reality’ shots.

    I see a basic universal emotional template presented through a story of everyday events, in which we can all it instantly recognise ourselves.
    Then it pulls some nice positive strings in the end giving its own character to the story. Memorable.

    Thats why the add needs the time. To identify with and then grow on you.
    Romance needs time.

  • I think the first, non-celebrity Siri ads (the ones that didn’t show the tops of their heads) were pretty awesome and relatable.

  • To borrow a phrase from Fake Steve Jobs, I think the ad brings a sense of childlike wonder. Reminds me of some of the first iPad ads.

  • I disagree with your claim that there are a lot more android devices out there taking more photos– on both points.

    First off, Android devices are sold, and used, as feature phones, not smartphones, which is why their share of web browsing is so pitiful. This implies that they are probably far less frequently used for photography (especially given their crappy cameras).

    Secondly, there are no reports of actual android sales that we can refer to. Amazon and Samsung do not report numbers, and when samsung was forced to in court, the numbers were pitiful.

    What we have is a bunch of android zealots and a lapdog press that loves to bash Apple (and has been since the early 1990s) mindlessly repeating the “analysis” of “analysts” hired by google to put out reports claiming that android is selling well.

    Point me to numbers in documents filed by the SEC– like Apple does every quarter when they report sales– for android sales. You can’t because they don’t exist.

    Much like the constant mantra that Apple was “beleaguered” and that it was “losing to Microsoft” — even at a time when Apple had 4-5 times as much revenue as microsoft, eventually led to consumers thinking that Apple was a losing proposition and staying away…. the android assholes are trying to pretend like android is winning.

    Don’t fall for it.

  • You’re a good example of one dimensional thinking– you assert there are more androids out there, but you do not defend this claim.

    It is a lie. A lie you mindlessly repeat.

  • Those three are probably the best commercials I’ve ever seen. Really spectacular.

    Shows what you can do when you have 90 seconds.

  • ksegall

    I don’t think it is a knock against Apple to say that Android phones (in totality) outsell iPhones. It’s no more of a bad thing than PCs outselling Macs.

    iPhone is a single product, while Android is a platform made up of dozens of phone-makers in a range of prices. iPhone does outsell any other individual model of phone, but it doesn’t outsell the entire legion of Android phone sellers.

    Apple is fine with this. It appeals to a certain kind of customer — one that is willing to pay a bit more to get a better product. It’s a business model that has worked incredibly well. Apple makes way more money by selling fewer products, just as it does in the computer category.

    The latest numbers I can find are here: http://onforb.es/10i1QNz. It’s clear that there are more Android phones out there. What you say may be true — that these phones are used differently — but it’s hard to quantify how many photos are taken on what platform. I imagine this is why Apple used such specific wording in this commercial.

    It purposefully does not claim that more photos are taken on iOS than Android. It only claims that iPhone takes more pictures “than any other camera.” I am sure there was a lot of debate over what could be said, and this was as strong a claim as could legally be made.

  • Hugo928000

    It is nice and the little smart idea here is the last sentence, agree, but not the creative part. The 2 ipads playing piano that was smart ! This one is nice but it misses the “This is really smart.”, the wow :-) The death guy saying I love you thanks to Facetime that was a piece of art, full of emotion, extremely human, it was the magic smart idea :-). Here it is a nice 60 secs video with a sticky ending conclusion but not at the usual level yet I think :-)

  • Nameless Coward

    Miaow… bad kitty. Grrr

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  • Chris

    Very good, not great ad. A bit too quite for Apple. I wasn’t even aware that it was an Apple spot at first—and that’s not always a bad thing but in this case I feel it is. There are/have been similar warm and fuzzy spots out there—mostly by google. It’s definitely one of Apple’s best spots since they introduced the iPad, but the bar hasn’t exactly been high. The interesting thing about this spot is that Apple is using a “fact” to sell it’s product (“more picture taken every day than any other phone”), rather than pure emotion and cool like in almost all of their ads. Now that the agency has its mojo back, let’s hope Apple does too—release, and revolutionize, the television already! (Oh, and leave the smart watch on the drawing room table, please.)

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  • Exactly this. This ad resonates the same way the original FaceTime ads did. It’s not at all about the device, or the technology itself. It’s about the device as a pure facilitator of connection and expression. That’s always been what Apple is about. It’s great to the company getting back to the kinds of ads that really drive that message home.

  • FoxBear

    @ken segall,

    because a) i’m naive and b) i’m a sucker, i want to believe this ad is all real people that have been placed in the ad. can you dispel or support the filming of this? were actors used, or everyday people?

    that said, i LOVE this commercial. it brings a smile every time. i am not an apple fan; androids are my thing. i could *almost* be converted simply by the power of this ad.

  • ksegall

    Well, it depends on what you mean by “real people.” When you make a commercial, you use a casting company. There are companies that specialize in real people, and there are those that find actors that look extremely natural and real. I’d be very surprised if most of the people in this ad were not actors. Shoot days are expensive, and with so many scenes to shoot, and budgets being an important factor, you want to make sure you get what you need as quickly as possible.

    As a point of comparison, look at the jcpenney campaign launch commercial we did on the Oscars (http://bit.ly/16CSmAT). Despite the “real” look, almost all are actors — except the kids of course.

    I guess it all boils down to the fact that when you are filming a “real life” scene, and you put inexperienced people into a scene you are creating, in front of a bunch of lights and equipment, with a big crew standing around — they likely won’t feel so real anymore.

    Hope that helps!

  • FoxBear

    yes that helps! burst my little bubble, but not unexpected. it makes sense that to achieve the level of complexity presented, you wouldn’t want the “ordinary” person, as the financial risk would be quite high; instead, you want someone who has a higher guarantee of completion without time wasting.

    on the other hand, contrary to other opinions, i STILL adore this commercial!

  • One word…


  • Hugo

    There’s a new ad for you to write a blog post about:

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  • twilightmoon

    The Kindle one about it being cheaper? That’s amusing but it’s hardly that great. Certainly not much depth to it, far cry from what this ad accomplishes.

  • twilightmoon

    I disagree that Android is a platform. It’s a collection of platforms under one umbrella. Look at the number of different versions of Android in the wild, while Apple has over 80% of people using iOS 6, with a large chunk of people in the remaining 20% are older phones unable to use the newest version, Android sells brand new phones using ancient years-ago versions of Android and are not ever going to be upgradable. Even though over 90% of malware targets Android, most phones won’t even get security patches.

    iPhone deserves better competition than Android. It’s a shame that Windows Phone and RIM are pancaking so hard, and Palm never got off the ground.

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