Taylor Swift’s epic treadmill fall in Apple Music’s new ad was no April Fools’ joke—it actually had been in the works for months.
On Friday, the singer posted the funny spot, which shows her working out, on her social accounts. Since then, iTunes sales of the song featured in the ad, Drake’s “Jumpman,” are up 431 percent globally. And the number of plays for Apple Music’s curated #gymflow playlist shown in the commercials has grown 325 percent, making it the No. 5 playlist of the week.
Overall, the video’s been viewed more than 20 million times on Facebook and Instagram, and Swift’s tweet with the video has racked up 66,960 retweets and 119,000 likes.
Apple didn’t disclose how many streams or subscriptions the ad generated.
“To really get an idea that was simple, informative and funny with hooks is really like writing a song,” Larry Jackson, Apple Music’s head of content, told Adweek. “With an artist that’s got 73 million followers on Instagram, that’s bigger than NBC, CBS and Fox and the viewership of prime time combined.”
The decision to tap into Swift’s massive Instagram following was no fluke. Two days beforehand, the Facebook-owned app announced it was rolling out minute-long videos, and Swift was one of the first users to test out the feature. The spot was then immediately pushed out to her Twitter and Facebook accounts followed by Apple Music’s social pages.
Now, it’s running as a 60-second TV ad on ESPN, CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox. Two additional spots with Swift are planned over the coming weeks, and the singer will also star in a bigger Apple Music campaign in the next few months.
“We wanted to capture that feeling that music accompanies every element of your life, and the [Apple Music] service is the backbone of that concept,” said director Anthony Mandler. “When you match that with Taylor’s stance of dancing like nobody’s watching, I think it was a very effortless flow.”
Apple Music didn’t work with an agency to create the ad. Black Hand Cinema produced the ad, and Mandler is represented by Believe Media.
Swift has a well-publicized relationship with Apple dating back to last June, when she wrote a letter about Apple’s decision not to pay artists as part of its launch strategy for Apple Music. (Apple ultimately changed its plans.)
Once she started working with the tech giant to create an Apple Music-exclusive documentary about her 1989 tour in October, Swift’s team started talking to Jackson about a possible campaign. Those talks sped up after an Apple Music commercial with country star Kenny Chesney that debuted at the Country Music Awards in November caught Swift’s eye.
The singer and Jackson then started bouncing ideas off of each other via email before bringing Mandler on board in January to direct. After three “creative sessions” with Swift, the team filmed the spots in February.
Apple has a rocky history with agencies, and while Apple Music still works with New York-based Translation, Jackson said he didn’t want to work with a lot of people on this campaign.
“It seemed to be very important that the idea of being protected and not be put in front of the jury—if you want to call it—where you get that agency vibe and you get 40 people tearing apart someone’s creative idea,” Jackson said. “I just kept the process private.”
Mandler added that the shop-free approach isn’t about dismissing agencies entirely. Instead, it’s about finding partners that can work quickly to create content.
“We don’t live in a system that we were in five years ago, three years ago,” he said. “Things are happening at a different pace. You have people who were never in the advertising world that are now at the center of marketing and advertising products.”
Jackson and Mandler declined to talk about what the two upcoming ads will look like, but Mandler said they build on the idea that the viewer is part of Swift’s world.
“The idea that you kind of hear the reel like you’re in her head and you’re watching her like you’re part of the room—that sort of unintrusive access and intimacy was paramount for us,” he said. “What you’ll see in the other spots is a camera that sits back and watches things unfold.”
And after Swift’s campaign ends, she’ll be part of another Apple Music campaign, along with other musicians, as part of the company’s plan to compete with Spotify, Pandora and other music-streaming services.
“It’s going to be an assault and a barrage of stuff that you’ll see over the next couple of months,” Jackson said.