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Is Apple’s 19-min manga ad worth the runtime? 19 top creatives discuss


By Sam Bradley, Journalist

March 12, 2024 | 13 min read

Are long ads worth the extra minutes, or are they just a creative indulgence?


A still from Apple’s latest ’Shot on Iphone’ campaign / Unsplash

The latest ‘Shot on iPhone’ campaign is an entire short film captured on the rain-slicked, neon-lit streets of Tokyo. It’s also 19 minutes long.

Can an ad this long ever be deemed effective as an ad? We asked 24 top creatives from around the world. Here’s what they had to say...

Kill your darlings

Szymon Rose, chief creative officer, Jung von Matt: “The short answer: no. The long answer: it depends. In rare cases, long-form ads/content work for me. When, for example, a big name is attached to the project, be it in front or behind the camera. This might spark my interest to sit through the entire thing. Or if the subject matter is somewhat refreshing. Arguably, Netflix’s Drive to Survive is a long-form ad and has revived and attracted a new demographic for a sport deemed boring. My wife, who hated F1, can’t wait for it to come on. A rare case of great long form.”

Metz ti Bryan, production partner, The Or London: ”I appreciate the industry’s creative passion to execute ambitious projects, but I do find that sometimes we forget who we are doing it for. The general public is time-starved, and we are already competing for their attention among the barrage of media messages that surround them every day. When judging ideas, I think it is important to be honest with ourselves and ask, will anyone really care? For most long-form ads, sadly the answer is usually no. The first movie shot on an iPhone was 10 years ago. It doesn’t mean this piece isn’t spectacular, but it also does take away from it feeling groundbreaking.”

David Edwards

… and the rules

David Edwards, chief customer officer, AMV: “The best form of ‘advertising’ remains a product demonstration with an emotional twist. Barbie was essentially just that and it managed to hold our attention for almost two hours. A 30-second ad cut up to two minutes may be a vanity project, but a narrative film specifically produced to hold attention for 19 minutes is a different thing altogether. You’d want to be sure that you can hold attention that long and the attention quality pays back. The product is the protagonist in Barbie. Even if completes are good, the relationship will likely be less strong for iPhone.”

Harriet Philpott, business director, Elvis: “The traditional guidelines tell us content must be short. As short as possible, and ideally flashing the logo in the first three seconds so it’s visible before people scroll on. It’s easy to feel constrained by the rules, to never stray too far from them. But how effective is visibility alone? To resonate, be remembered and build brands, we need to do more than that; we need to connect with real people and to tell stories. We’re competing with every other piece of content in existence and to do that effectively needs a disruptive approach. After all, ‘best practice’ is, by definition, always about what’s been done before.”

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Cooper Evoy, associate creative director, SS+K: “The best creative doesn’t just stray from traditional guidelines, it ignores them. The “Shot on iPhone” campaign does that – no perfect product shot, just amazing shots taken by the product. Through the lens of a traditional ad, it’s way too long. But through the lens of a feature film, it’s basically a :06 pre-roll. It’s all about perspective, and Apple is showing creators a new world of possibilities. As for effectiveness, time will tell if this can bump iPhone’s global market share above its current measly 20%.”

Scott Everett, executive creative director, PMG: “Content has a long history in brand building, and it serves a different part of the journey than a traditional TV ad. Back in the day, P&G produced radio shows and soap operas to drive demand by influencing culture, while, in contemporary times, Red Bull has completely pushed the boundaries of branded content. Advertising creatives should always know what’s working and then challenge those assumptions. My guiding principle is that the right length for a story is driven by the goal and the context. Cutting the Apple film too early could actually hurt its value. Its primary job is to entertain.”

Deb Archambault, head of production at PXP for BBH: “An ad is of the right length as long as it remains compelling and purposeful. There’s no need for extra time if the audience’s interest is lost. A 15-second ad can be too long if it fails to convey its message effectively. Push for more time if the key information or ‘super’ cannot be fully appreciated within the current duration. This is a practical indicator of when more time might be necessary.”

Remember Gossage

Rob Kavanagh, executive creative director, Oliver UK: “To misquote the great Howard Luck Gossage, ‘people watch what interests them, and sometimes it’s an ad.’ I didn’t just watch ‘Midnight’; I devoured it. The story was captivating. The cinematography was dripping with craft and style. And throughout I was thinking, how’d they do that on my phone? As ever, it’s Apple outclassing again by being classy AF. 19 mins? Well, nobody ever has time. But we always find it – and often inadvertently.”

Jef Loeb, creative director, Brainchild Creative: “Gossage 101: you say ‘cut’ at the razor’s edge of interest; when it’s gone, so are you. It’s kind of liberating since it really embraces both traditional formats and genre-benders like this one. Whether you deem it successful or not is something of a zen question since you first have to decide what ’it’ is, who it’s for, and what’s the takeaway. But maybe that’s the chameleon-like genius of Apples ongoing series – they really break all the rules by managing to serve multiple audiences and deliver multiple takeaways. For those of us who make brand videos for a living, it’s all about production values and utility – judging by the fact that this data point of one sat through all 19 damned minutes says it’s a long-form demo that succeeds.”

ashley geisheker

Message matters, not the medium

Ashley Geisheker, head of production at PXP for Leo Burnett: “Long ads can certainly be deemed effective advertising. It’s essential not to limit ourselves by length but rather allow the creative freedom to share the idea in the most impactful way, whether that be through an extended film or just a few seconds. The idea itself should dictate the length of its execution.”

Ciro Sarmiento, chief creative officer, Colle McVoy: “Format should be in service of the story, not the other way around. I’ve seen some boring six-second videos – and I’ve known people who’ve watched and rewatched 45 minutes of Nick Offerman nursing a glass of whisky. It’s interesting that the bulk of 60-second Super Bowl ads ranked higher than the 30-second spots in USA Today’s Ad Meter. Having clarity on the creative idea you’re trying to convey – and a dash of tension – will always grab people. Creative clarity gives command over not only what you want to say but how long it will take to tell a compelling story.”

Richard Pinder, chief executive officer, Rankin Creative: “When Oscar-worthy Cinema can be 18 minutes (The After) or over three hours (Oppenheimer), why can’t brand building, audience-engaging content be two minutes or even 12 minutes? Most of our work these days is shot and edited to land well in an attention-deficit world. It’s all down to those hardy perennials that serve us well – relevance, engagement and storytelling. Let’s judge work on that basis.”


It takes as long as it takes

Candela Martos, director & co-founder, Dirty Jack: “Hell yeah, it’s effective. As AI and video tech continue to boom, the only variable worth considering in advertising will be the quality of the stories we tell. What are we supposed to do? Stick to the same video formats for the next 50 years? Please, god, no. Audiences are starving for interesting work, which is why we love the creative efforts of the Super Bowl.”

Jeff Bowerman, executive creative director, Dept UK: “I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say this Apple ad is too short. 20 minutes is giving bohemian art house a short film festival, never quite long enough to follow an emotional story arc, establish and invest in characters, and leave audiences satisfied. But too long to willingly endure as an advert. Thanks to the rise of binge stream TV, the world of entertainment is getting longer, while the growth of social meant advertisements are getting arguably shorter – I find these forms of adver-tainment sitting awkwardly in between. I don’t care if it pretends to be shot on an iPhone or not; give me a Lego or Barbie movie any day of the week.”

Dave Beattie, creative director, BMB: “Would I prefer to watch a 30-second phone demo that takes me through every spec and button or be inspired by an amazing 19-minute film that shows me the phone’s full potential? Give me Takashi Miike’s latest iPhone film every day. Is it effective? It was for me and the 20 people I shared it with. But remember, there’s always a time and place. Most advertising is an interruption that prevents people from getting to the thing they really want to watch. So, make it bloody worth it. Cut the crap. Roll on the entertainment, I say.”

Peter Nicholson, chief creative officer, Hill Holliday: “It’s Apple, It’s Takashi Miike. It’s Osamu Tezuka’s 1986 manga Midnight. In horse racing, the bet’s called the trifecta. This is a sure thing trifecta if there ever was one because it’s Apple doing what we want them to do for mass culture – bring us alternative or niche culture unfamiliar to most and make us feel cool just like owning an iPhone makes us feel. Will people watch the whole filmic product demo? Does it matter? I think they will. It’s better than most movies and mentioning it will give you a pass on The Bachelor addiction.”

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Mallory Hern, associate design director, Hook: “A 19-minute commercial? Ludicrous, right? But then again, the average Instagram user devours 33 minutes daily. So, you might say, that’s two 19-minute ads you just scrolled past without batting an eye. Design school whispered a secret: rules are meant to be pushed. So, if the brand and budget can handle it, why not craft a cinematic masterpiece with bite-sized cut-downs? Who knows, maybe, just maybe, it’ll cut through the mindless scroll and leave its mark.”

Andreas Dahlqvist, chief executive officer and chief creative officer, Nord DDB: “Great storytelling will engage regardless of length. I think communications will move closer to entertainment as brands need to earn their audience more than ever before. Starting from what people are interested in, rather than being too preoccupied with what you want to say, is always a better idea. If you’re going after a fan community as in Apple’s case, you also need to know the territory well as the room for error is much smaller.”

Mikael Greenlief, vice-president of communications strategy/brand entertainment, GSD&M: “It’s more important to make something entertaining enough that audiences will not say “cut” on us. Brands are no longer confined to precise ad units and ad durations as there are platforms that are right for any length of story – from six seconds to sixty minutes – and audiences have shown they are willing to watch any length of content, even if it bucks channel norms. We’ve seen 10-minute TikTok’s go viral and millions of people tuning into brand-created full-length documentaries, reality series and even scripted features. The duration of an ‘ad’ really knows no bounds today.”

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