Olivia Rodrigo is the most popular pop star in America this year, with a blockbuster debut album SOUR and a massive social media following that led President Biden to invite the 18-year-old to the White House to help persuade young people to get a COVID vaccine. Back in May, the song “brutal” was the first single to debut atop Billboard’s Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart since Taylor Swift’s “cardigan,” with 26.7 million U.S. streams in its first week.
This week, Rodrigo dropped the video for “brutal,” which Vogue called an “ode to Y2K beauty.” But it’s also an ode to something else: Apple. Directed by Petra Collins, the video features “brutal” masks made on an iPad with the FacePaint feature on the Procreate app—all which Apple highlights in a new 30-second spot. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill celebrity tie-in or product placement. This is just the next step in how Apple is able to show off the extraordinary power of its brand to touch every piece of pop culture, from where we listen to music (Apple Music), to shooting videos, and now even the fun features within those videos.
This isn’t the first time Apple is touting its involvement in the video, either. Earlier this month, it was encouraging TikTok users to create their own #BrutalMasks.
Apple’s now-familiar product demo-based ad campaign started with “Shot on iPhone” back in 2015. In it, user-generated photos and videos cleverly illustrated the creative capabilities of Apple devices. That same year, Apple launched its music streaming platform Apple Music, and began using top artists like Taylor Swift and Drake to hype it. In 2016, Apple Music head of content Larry Jackson told Fast Company his goal was to make Apple Music a clubhouse where great artists gather, including in its brand marketing. A Taylor Swift ad featuring “Jumpman” by Drake and Future coincided with a week-long Apple Music exclusive on that Drake and Future album. Before long, “Shot on iPhone” expanded to tie in with Apple Music and videos for artists like Selena Gomez’s “Lose You to Love Me” in 2019, and Lady Gaga’s “Stupid Love” last year.
With Rodrigo, Apple has taken things a step further. Here we have an advertising triple play, promoting the iPad, Apple Music, and the FacePaint feature all at once. It’s an unusually succinct portrait of just how pervasive Apple has become in the entertainment we consume. Apple tools are used to create the content we consume on Apple devices, but also used to create the advertising for both the content and the devices. There is almost no part in that equation untouched by the brand.
In that sense “brutal” may also be teasing what’s to come. Last year, Oscar-winner Damien Chazelle’s nine-minute short film “The Stunt Double” showed off iPhone features like extended dynamic range, video stabilization, and the ultra-wide-angle lens—all things standard on the iPhone 11 Pro—served up in a surreal trip through silent film, Westerns, action flicks, musicals, romance, and more. It’s not a huge leap to imagine soon an original Apple+ show or movie being used as a more holistic advertising opportunity. Which is to say: When the trailer for Foundation season three drops in a few years, don’t be surprised if it ends with a familiar tagline: Made on iPad.