Apple Lovingly Captures the Ways Creativity Is Flourishing in Quarantine

The new ad was created in a whirlwind 2 weeks

'Creativity Goes On' from Apple highlights the ways people have managed to stay connected worldwide. Apple
Headshot of David Griner

Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” Specifically, he was celebrating how a diverse array of experiences can fuel the creative process. Without “enough dots to connect,” Jobs felt, your thinking becomes too linear. Too isolated.

So what happens when almost all our traditional connections are severed by a global quarantine? Does creativity stagnate?

Jobs would be glad to know that, far from withering, creativity has thrived through the growth of new connections—often fueled by the devices and tools created by his company.

In the brand’s newest ad, a lovely and minimalist celebration of life in quarantine, Apple and agency TBWA\Media Arts Lab bring together real footage of families, creators and celebrities around the world. Each is honing a skill, sharing a gift or finding a way to bring a new idea to life.

“Creativity Goes On” is a perfect cross-section of our culture at its best in such unexpected circumstances. And perhaps most impressively, it was developed, compiled, approved and launched in a span of just two weeks.

The spot is clearly reminiscent of other Apple campaigns, specifically “Behind the Mac” and “Shot on iPhone,” both of which are fueled by user-created content. But this time around, Apple is not only looking at a far wider swath of its products, but it’s also commendably downplaying its products in favor of uplifting the creative minds around them.

While many brands are leaning into messages of stoic solidarity, Apple instead shines a light on the good things happening in a world fragmented by COVID-19. That’s a risky positioning that could generate backlash for a brand marketer who’s not up to the challenge of finding the right balance and tone, but Apple’s experience as a brand willing to be a part of nuanced cultural moments clearly pays off here.

The first cut of the ad was developed largely over a weekend from footage found across diverse corners of the internet. The draft that emerged would undergo shockingly few changes before becoming final, thanks largely to the positive response by the content creators when they were contacted by the brand.

About 70% of the footage originally mocked up in the first rough cut would end up making it into the final spot. Most of the changes in footage along the way were due less to problems licensing footage—though that proved to be a bit of a challenge for the closing shot featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, whose estates had to approve the usage. Instead, tweaks were often made to include newer footage found along the path of creating the ad.

The ad’s soundtrack, “Asleep at the Parade” by The Young Ebenezers, was also an early selection that endured throughout the review process.

Begun in the closing days of March, the spot was ready to go live April 10. And while its rollout was somewhat quiet in comparison to the way many marketers launch new work, the ad still got a memorable introduction.

When Steve Jobs described creativity as “just connecting things,” he was praising fresh ideas through the lens of his day, as a tech pioneer trying to keep his data-centric colleagues mindful of value in the wider world.

When his successor, Apple CEO Tim Cook, described creativity in launching the new ad, he chose phrasing more specific to the intensely emotional, unprecedented moment of right now: “Creativity is the light that shows us what’s possible, the fuel that drives progress, the beauty that makes us human.”

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."