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Apple’s Heart-Warming ‘Short Film’: A New Style of Advertising

Most advertisements are quick. They're intended to alert us of a new product, along with its features, advantages, and benefits in a short amount of time. Sometimes they pique our interest or make the viewer laugh, but generally speaking, the intent is to place their brand in front of customers as frequently as possible. The hope is the advertisement is just enough to get people hooked into buying (or continue buying) their offering. However, this style only allows room for 30 seconds of creativity.

On the other hand, what if an advertisement is so captivating that the intended audience will sit there for 3 to 4 minutes - instead of 30 seconds - watching it. The marketing campaign becomes much more than just a quick flash of visuals to get the customer to make a purchase. Instead, it tells a complete story: a story that is moving in some way, shape, or form. It may be funny, it may be sad, or it may be inspiring. Either way, it’s enjoyable to watch. Not only does one enjoy watching it, but the message also sticks with the viewer longer.

Two different companies recently released commercials that do just that. Apple and Xfinity.

Each commercial features an elaborate story arch, taking the audience through much more than just their products. In fact, very little is shown of what the product’s technical abilities actually are. And yet the viewer feels much more drawn into the brand: reaching the customer on a human level.

Apple’s ad, produced by TBWA (an international advertising firm), is about as emotional as they come. The commercial starts out with two young sisters who keep getting on their parent’s nerves. Each time they start causing trouble, the kids are handed an iPad to distract them from the rising conflict. You may or may not agree with their parenting method, but by the end, you realize just how impactful the rectangular tablet actually is. The iPad wasn’t simply a device to divert their kids' attention, but instead, it became a powerful tool for creativity. Towards the end of the montage, the message quickly turns to one of compassion fueled by the creative abilities of what Apple’s products allow customers to create.

The new ET marketing campaign by Comcast (which owns Universal Pictures & Xfinity) is a little less emotional but still has a powerful message. This mini-sequel to the original 1982 ET, produced by Stephen Spielberg, showcases the friendly alien returning to visit the now grown-up Elliot and his family during the holidays. Throughout the short, the audience is shown the family’s traditions during the Christmas season and their generosity to their unusual visitor. The message Xfinity portrays in this ad is simply the importance of family and how their services can help bring everyone together in a fun/interactive way.

Both Apple and Xfinity could have taken the easy path. They could’ve shown enticing images of their products along with flashy words intending to capture one’s attention. However, instead, they decided to take a different route. This style of marketing allowed them to captivate their audience in a whole different way. In doing so, they generated authentic buzz around their company.

And it’s working! I’m writing this blog post and sharing their advertisements after all.

Whether you like the ads or not, this longer narrative style is a little more interesting than the typical format. The audience at least feels like they weren’t taken advantage of or brainwashed by sneaky marketing tactics. You won’t see these full-length advertisements broadcasted on television regularly, therefore you have to willingly search - or come across them on other platforms, such as this one.

In the digital era, there is no shortage of new (and old) companies vying for consumer’s attention. Whether it is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Youtube, or TV, every business wants you to notice them. There is no escaping it. Advertising is not going away anytime soon. That being said, a brand must find ways to break through all the discord. However, that doesn’t mean they have to make the most noise or stir up the most controversy. Maybe instead, one creates something meaningful, something that fills one of humanity’s deepest desires: storytelling.

Is it working? I’ll let you be the judge.

If you feel so inclined, leave a comment with your thoughts on the long format strategy below.

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OK... Now you made me cry to start my day... I’ve heard about he Apple spot, but had not seen it until your thoughtful post. You make a great case for the careful use of various mediums to carry a message. The best communicators have always been “knowers of their audience” and have adjusted methods/mediums/content for maximum impact - in this era there are SO many accessible tools that can be used to impact people and change behavior. Nice job Lucid Cause for being creative users of resources and - most importantly - “human” storytellers


Spencer Nickel
Spencer Nickel
Dec 05, 2019

Love this content and analysis. You guys really know this space! Thanks for this post. Fun stuff.

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