The 10 best Apple ads of 2020


Damien Chazelle
Apple produced some spectacular ads this year.
Photo: Apple

Apple makes great phones, tablets, computers and smartwatches. It also makes superb commercials — and has done so for years.

What was the cream of this year’s Apple advertising crop? Check out our top 10 picks (in no particular order) below.

The best Apple ads of 2020

“Whiteout” — iPhone 11

One thing I’ve always loved about Apple advertising is the fact that the product comes second to the use-case. Most people don’t care about gigaflops-per-flip or the number of splines reticulated by the CPU. They care about what this means to them in terms of their daily experience using a device.

Apple’s “Slofie” campaign, showing off the iPhone 11’s slo-mo front-facing camera feature, provided a great example of this. Slow-motion selfies did not exactly set the world on fire. But this campaign — and the “Whiteout” snowboarding ad in particular — was a fun minor advertising triumph from the Cupertino folks this year.

“A New World to Play In” — Apple Arcade

Super Bowl ads come with a high benchmark for Apple thanks to the legendary “1984” Macintosh ad directed by Ridley Scott. 2020’s “A New World to Play In” won’t give Scott sleepless nights. But it was a nifty way of showing off the Apple Arcade subscription service.

It featured characters from multiple Apple Arcade titles such as Lego Builder’s Journey and Ultimate Rivals: The Rink. Making a library of disparate games feel like they’re connected under one broad umbrella is tough. This ad achieves the goal nicely.

“Behind the Mac — International Women’s Day”

Having a corporation piggyback off an event like International Women’s Day can seem kind of blatant and, well, gross. As I guy, I’m probably not qualified to comment on the effectiveness of this particular spot. But I think the results were pretty great.

Black-and-white still images of influential women such as Gloria Steinem, Malala Yousafzai and others using MacBooks — combined with Beyoncé empowerment anthem “Flawless” — adds up to something pretty special. Just artistically, it’s a brilliant, understated ad that focuses on what Apple products can help you do.

“Snap” — AirPods Pro

AirPods advertising has been ace since Apple introduced the product line. “Snap,” the ad for the AirPods Pro and its active noise cancellation and Transparency mode, was another winner. It shows a wearer moving through a busy street, switching between the two modes to either listen to what’s going on around them or block out the noise.

It’s a great, abstract way of demonstrating this particular feature. I loved it.

“Float” — iPad Pro/Magic Keyboard

Apple showed off the iPad Pro and Magic Keyboard in a really fun way in this ad. “Float” depicts a colorful hummingbird flying around inspecting Apple’s new tablet/keyboard combo. The tiny bird effectively illustrates the way the hardware setup hovers effortlessly.

It’s a cute, fun ad that finds an innovative way to showcase these products’ innovative new design. Even if it makes me desperately want a colorful hummingbird to go with my iPad setup.

“The Whole Working-From-Home Thing”

It may as well have been a law of advertising that every brand had to do a working-from-home ad this year. Apple was no exception. But this one, titled “The Whole Working-From-Home Thing,” managed to be among the best I’ve seen.

Running at almost seven minutes, it’s more a short film than a commercial, but it does a great job of advertising Apple products and their uses along the way. By the end, you’re invested enough that you want to know how the team’s presentation went. Anytime you can get people to invest in the characters in an ad, you’re doing something right!

“Vertical Cinema” — iPhone

People who shoot iPhone videos vertically are often mocked for having committed a major error. This ad from Academy Award-winning director Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, La La Land) shows it’s nothing to be embarrassed by.

This nine-minute (!!) ad runs through a range of different movie genres and tropes, giving each one the vertical treatment. It’s fun, imaginative and makes you want to grab your iPhone camera and get shooting.

“Over Sharing” — iPhone

Apple’s laudable privacy efforts remain one of the company’s most important initiatives in recent years. But explaining the importance of the mission to everyday users isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Especially not in a one-minute ad that manages to make the topic fun. “Over Sharing” is one of the best Apple ads of the year for exactly this reason. Bravo, Apple!

“Make Movies Like the Movies” — iPhone 12 Pro

The iPhone camera is almost astonishingly good these days. It has even been used to film legit Hollywood movies. This ad shows off the iPhone 12 Pro camera being used in all sorts of creative ways to film video.

”Journey Into Sound” — AirPods Max

Much like the “Snap” spot mentioned earlier, this AirPods Max ad shows how Apple’s headphones can transport you to another (metaphorical) dimension through their sound quality and active noise cancellation tech. At $549, the AirPods Max are far from cheap. This ad has the kind of quality you’d expect from a premium product like this.

Any other picks for best Apple ads?

Are we missing something? Did you have other favorite Apple ads in 2020? Let us know in the comments below.