How Apple’s Latest Commercial Leaves You Wanting More

While content marketing is a very effective driver of lead growth for your business, you may find yourself wanting to expand your video marketing efforts to include projects with a slightly larger scope. For example, you may find yourself interested in creating a web-series or similar content that is more narrative-based, meaning it has a story it’s telling rather than just advertising your business. This type of project is referred to as branded content.

Branded content is a great way to continue to grow brand awareness, while letting the promotion of your business take a back seat to content you produce more for entertainment value. In the instance of a web-series or similar endeavor, you’d be funding or producing the episodes yourself, with the goal of associating your brand with clever, funny, or creative content that shares a core value to that of your business.

This type of content is different from content marketing because the content’s purpose is entertainment first, brand awareness second. That’s not to say that branded content can’t promote your products using product placement. In fact, good branded content usually does incorporate some type of product placement, like this week’s viral video from tech behemoth Apple titled, “The Underdogs.”

While not explicitly branded content in the traditional sense, this short from Apple makes you kind of wish it was serialized. It’s comedic timing, rhythmic pacing, and stand-out performances rival any Netflix show. Over the course of just three minutes, you get to know the four main characters as the lovable goofs they are, all while they cram to prepare their pitch for the next great American reinvention: the round pizza box.

Will they pull it off? Check out the video yourself to find out:

Here are a few quick takeaways from Apple’s “The Underdogs” that you can apply to your own marketing videos – branded content or otherwise.

1. Throw us into the action.

“The Underdogs” takes no time to get to its central premise – in fact, the short starts after the premise’s inciting incident and then catches us up to speed with some clever and snappy flashbacks. It begins with a brilliant image of a woman getting out of an elevator with a giant coffee stain on her shirt as she rushes to meet with her friends with some exciting news, and works backwards to explain how it all happened.

Instead of starting in our lead character’s normal world as she drives to work and tries to park, the video throws us right into the action. Whether you’re creating a marketing video or branded content video, try using a similar tactic (whenever relevant). Don’t waste time building up to something – in the land of digital video, you have less than 8 seconds to catch our attention – so use them wisely.

2. Make it feel like a movie.

One of the best things about watching “The Underdogs” is when you watch it, it makes you feel like you’re watching something larger than itself. Whether you categorize that as looking like a movie, prestige TV show, or whatever else, it has an elevated look and feel that makes you feel like you’re watching a David Fincher project rather than an Apple commercial.

Part of that obviously comes from budget – when you’re the wealthiest tech company on Earth, you can afford to shell out some cash for a good commercial. But even in your own video production, aim to create a consistent quality, look, and feel for your video. Think about how, even though every frame is barely on screen for more than two seconds, each one has a cinematic quality in their framing, lighting, etc.

A lot of that comes from meticulously planning in the pre-production stage, as well as having a good director with a specific vision.

3. Use music and editing to add style.

We write a lot about how a video’s soundtrack can fundamentally change a video, and it’s definitely true. In the case of “The Underdogs,” the video’s musical score is largely responsible for the video’s cool tone. Using this soundtrack, the filmmakers were able to keep a flow, build up suspense, and create a style that both informed the editing and the other way around.

For example, there are key moments where the music will stop to assist a punchline, like in the bathroom scene at 1:50, and for subtle releases of tension, like the iconic moment at 2:43 when they all cram into the elevator and wait in anticipation for a dramatic beat… until they realize that no one pressed the button.

This use of music is a great device, but it takes a great editor to get the timing right, so make sure you don’t cut any corners during the post-production stage of your own videos, and work with an awesome editor or edit team when you can!

4. Incorporate your products as a supporting role.

In branded content especially, (and in most video marketing generally,) you want the story you’re telling to be the most important part. In the case of the “The Underdogs,” Apple incorporated their entire product line as a smaller, supporting character to the four main leads and their story. Instead of focusing on how great Apple features are, the narrative focused on these four characters and the stress of their situation.

Then, they showcased the features of their products in a holistic way – as part of the actual plot, as opposed to a bulleted list of features. Instead of throwing in some cheesy line like “Apple allows you to airdrop between devices,” they physically show the characters easily Airdropping a video to each other in a hurry. In this way, Apple is also able to ingeniously showcase their whole product line, from the iPhone to the Apple Watch, all the way to the iPad. Even Siri gets her 15 milliseconds of fame.

If you’re doing product placement of any kind in a branded content series, this is absolutely the way to do it: make the story compelling on its own, and in a similarly subtle and masterful way, weave your products into the narrative so the viewer doesn’t even realize they’re being promoted at all. Of course, the jaded viewers won’t miss it, but they’ll appreciate you at least tried to wrap it up in an otherwise exciting story.

5. Have fun with it!

The best part about “The Underdogs” is you can tell everyone involved loved making it. The cast works well together, there’s tons of clever shots and playful visual gags, and the exceptional editing and sound mixing makes it a total blast to watch. Whether it’s a marketing video, 30-second ad, or a full-on branded content limited series, make sure you have fun making it! Because if you don’t enjoy it and it’s your own video, then what makes you think anyone else will like it?

Who said video marketing had to be stuffy or overly “aspirational” anyway? There are tons of fun videos from brands, whether they’re national commercial spots, branded shorts, or social ads, that are fun, funny and get the point across. Have some fun while you make something fun, and your love will shine through in the final product.

Grant Harvey

Grant Harvey