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How long is too long for an ad? Apple releases 9 minute spot


How long is too long for an ad? Apple releases 9 minute spot


It’s known for its unique and cut-through campaigning, but is a nine-minute spot too long even for Apple?

In 2019, Apple released a three-minute ad online. The ad was called The Underdogs, and profiled four office workers looking to make a break from their 9-5. Given an opportunity to pitch an idea to their difficult boss, the workers rely on Apple products to make it happen – and make it happen fast.

The ad gained huge popularity, and was a unique way of showing off the plethora of products that Apple has. 

Apple is no stranger to making viral ads. From relying on its distinctly white colour in the early iPod campaigns through to the Macintosh ads in the 90s, Apple knows how to make waves, not ripples. However, Apple’s latest advertising efforts might be its most daring to date.

Why does this campaign stand out?

Apple’s campaign The Underdogs is unique for the tech-giant. For starters Apple rarely, if ever, do sequels. All of its most famous campaigns are standalone. But, there was something different about The Underdogs.

It was never imagined to be a sequel, let alone a trilogy. Yet, the 2019 spot gained such popularity in both characters and plot, it felt like it had nowhere else to go. The short film even has its own IMDb page, where it has been voted as nine out of ten viewing.

On the back of the success of the debut, a series was born. 

In 2020, The Underdogs moved locations. The foursome joined the ranks of those working from home. This gave Apple another opportunity: how to connect when remote. In an era when everyone was learning how to connect to a home network, Apple had the answers. In a real life, insitu event. The motley crew were to pitch a product to their boss. Using iPads, iPens, iPhones and iMacs, the plan came to fruition. 

It was a genius way to showcase not only the products, but their uses. 

The most outstanding part though? The ad was seven minutes. It had increased a full four minutes from its predecessor. But, is seven minutes too long to hold an audience’s attention? We are living in a TikTok generation. Small snippets of information delivered with high energy. This sequel was the opposite. It was long. It had plots and subplots. Plot devices. It was well thought out, but at the core of it all – it was an ad. 

But, people watched. Currently the ad sits at over 33 million streams on YouTube. So the formula was working.

Longer ads to over take tradition?

On the heels of the mammoth of success of part two of The Underdogs, we waited two years to find out what happened to the team. 

On 11 March 2022, Apple released the third instalment of the series. This time, they’ve had enough. The four stars decide to join the Great Resignation. 

But, it’s not the plot that matters per se. It’s the risk that Apple has taken. This ad spot is a staggering nine minutes long. As viewers and consumers, we are used to seeing ads at 15, 30 or 60-second spots during prime time TV. A nine minute spot means that we are now consuming ads actively rather than passively. 

When an ad is nine minutes long, we are seeking out to watch it. Rather than it being part of the background noise whilst we run our typical chores that fit into an ad break, we’re making the choice to consume. 

What does this mean for Apple?

It means that the ad has to be more subtle. No one will sit down to watch nine minutes of the same cleaning product being used over and over. But, with a strong story arc and likeable characters, can you make a short film an ad? 

Well, if The Underdogs is anything to go by – yes. The series works beautifully. From the use of emojis to the Apple watch. Every product used is done with nuance yet tongue-in-cheek. It’s a successful display of creativity with advertising.

Apple has again dominated its marketing. Leveraging both current events as well as our interest in the characters, the trilogy has done better than expected.

The nine minute ad is worth every minute. All nine of them.

Liv Croagh

Liv Croagh was the Managing Editor of Marketing Mag from September 2021 to September 2023.

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