How “Shot on iPhone” became an iconic ad campaign for Apple

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How "Shot on iPhone" became an iconic ad campaign for Apple

One of the most iconic marketing campaigns ever used by Apple is its “Shot on iPhone” series of billboards, print ads, and television commercials. The line is so well known that other phone manufacturers have used it to promote the cameras on their phones. In Adweek (via 9to5Mac) Apple Vice President Tor Myhren explains how “Shot on iPhone” was created back in 2014.

“Shot on iPhone” was a “ridiculously simple idea,” says Apple Vice President

Originally created for outdoor advertising (read “billboards”), Myhren said that “Shot on iPhone” was “a ridiculously simple idea based on behavior we were seeing with people posting their photos and hashtagging them in different ways.” The executive also noted that Apple has a thing for billboards. “We absolutely love outdoors. It breaks all the rules of today’s fast and temporary and fractured digital culture. It’s static, it doesn’t move, it’s singular—all the things that most of marketing nowadays is not.”

Myhren said that research has concluded that consumers who belong to Generation Z find outside advertising “relaxing.” Apple first started using billboards in the 1990s when the company started promoting its controversial “Think Different” tagline that featured John and Yoko and Rosa Parks

Not only did Apple use images created by non-celebrity iPhone users, it also posted content created by celebrities including music videos created by Lady Gaga and Selena Gomez. The campaign proved to be a success allowing Apple to expand it beyond billboards. At first, though, Apple blew up the images on outdoor signs to show consumers features related to the iPhone’s cameras and top hopefully inspire them to experiment and come up with memorable photos themselves.

As Myhren explains, the “Shot on iPhone” billboards were designed not to just promote the camera(s) on the latest iPhone, but also to make the area surrounding the billboard look better. “Something to ask is, ‘Can you actually make the space more interesting and charming versus being obtrusive and annoying?'” he said.

Apple has used the “Shot on iPhone” campaign for national holidays and to promote history-making events. For one Earth Day, Apple released a video showing wild animals while  Megadeth’s music played in the background.

One “Shot on iPhone” video was a single-take 5-hour museum tour that promoted the improved battery life on the iPhone 11 Pro line

The thing about billboards, notes Myhren, is that there is space only to show a few words and images. “You have to strip away the artifice and get down to the truth,” he said. “It’s important to value ‘platforms over ads. Media is art.”

Apple has used “Shot on iPhone” to go outside of the box such as when it created a 5-hour video ad in a single take that featured a tour of Russia’s Hermitage museum. The ad was developed to not only show off the camera array on the iPhone 11 Pro but also to show off the phone’s longer battery life.
This past July, Apple announced the winner of the 2021 iPhone Photography Awards. Ironically, even though Apple has stepped up the specs on the iPhone camera every year, the grand prize photo (titled Transylvanian Shepherds) was snapped using 2016’s iPhone 7. Among other pictures that received an award, one was shot on the iPhone 7 Pro.
The first iPhone used with the “Shot on iPhone” billboards was the iPhone 6 which was equipped with an 8MP camera, true tone flash, and phase detection autofocus. At that time. photography on the iPhone had come a long way from the 2MP camera on the first model. That camera seemed like an afterthought with no flash and a lack of video support.
Compare that to today’s iPhone 13 Pro cameras with three different lenses, the new Cinematic Mode, Macro Mode, and more. And as long as Apple continues to upgrade the iPhone camera every year, expect to see billboards, television ads, and social media spots for images that were “Shot on iPhone.”

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