Have you ever wondered how much work goes into the iPhone ads you see on TV? For that 3 seconds or less of slick demonstration by a certified hand model, there's a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. Here's a quick run-down of how we built a demo of a client's app in preparation for being featured in an Apple TV ad.
1. Start with a great App.
In this case, the app was a tool called Measure it! A groundbreaking yet simple app, the concept worked by taking a photo of an object, using a number of reference objects to let the app understand the scale of your photo, then dragging your finger on the photo to obtain distance measurements.
2. Get on Apple's Radar
With the sheer volume of apps on the App Store these days it's hard to stand out in the crowd, but the same general rules apply today as they did when the store first launched:
•Design your app to suit Apple's current guidelines. For iOS 9 and 10, that's a minimalist design, crisp sans-serif fonts, uncluttered layouts and simple icons and images.
•Incorporate features unique to the latest iterations of Apple's hardware and software. In the current App Store, that means using features like 3D Touch or the wide colour gamut of the iPad Pro 9".
•Be exclusive to the iOS platform. Apple wants their ads to showcase why you should buy an iPhone or iPad over any other device, so an app that only runs on the iOS platform is more likely to be a feature candidate than one readily available for other devices.
3. The Request Comes Through
Once your starts have aligned and your app has been selected for a TV advertisement, the real work begins.
As with all things Hollywood, what looks good in reality and what looks good on the big or small screen are often vastly different, and Apple will likely require changes made to your app design and/or functionality to better suit the advertising format.
For Measure It! these are some of the changes that Apple requested:
The changes fell into 3 categories:
1. Update the UI. Removing clutter, re-sizing buttons to be less prominent (making them so small they would have been difficult to use in the 'real world' but making them look better in the demo). Seeding the app with a curated image (in the end 3 images were used to build demos for different markets - the clock building was used worldwide, the Australian version in the video above used a building in Melbourne and the French version used the Eiffel Tower).
2. Remove Steps. The actual app needs a few steps to prepare the image for measurement - image selection, positioning and scaling. Apple provided fixed images, positions and scales and required that the app jumped those configuration steps and went straight to the main functionality.
3. Hard-code the outcome. In the demo video you see the measurements change as the user drags their finger down the screen, and when they release their finger the measurements are the exact height of the building in the demo. Of course this outcome was assured with code changes - the app was modified to ensure that a measurement made on each image would 'snap' to the exact specified heights when the user's finger drag matched the image.
4. Work Overtime
The big catch with all these changes is the short timeframe you're given to implement them for the ad demos. No doubt for complex apps (specifically games from AAA studios with strong relationships within Apple) there's more leeway in this process, but for opportunities like Measure It! it's absolutely a case of scrambling to make the changes as soon as Apple comes calling.
With Measure It!, Apple's deadline to make the changes was initially 4 hours, extended to 24 with some clarification. Apple added a 3rd regional version and adjusted some details after the initial submission (someone mis-measured the Eiffel Tower...) but in all the changes required to build the demo app versions were made in 3 business days.
The reward for all this work was of course to see a project you've worked on appear in a TV Commercial. Our client received a massive spike in app downloads as a direct result of the TV ads, and we ended up with a brilliant addition to our showcase and the satisfaction of having our work featured on one of the highest Apple stages.