That the third generation of Apple's iPad will be a hit seems a foregone conclusion. Reviews have been good, even if the update is incremental: a sharper screen, better camera, a faster processor, LTE, all in a slightly thicker, heavier package. But here's another clue on consumer interest in the new iPad: video views for its new campaign are actually trending ahead of the first and second iPads.
A week after its launch, the iPad 3 video campaign has generated 2.8 million views. Compare this to 2.7 million views for iPad 2 and 2.5 million views for the original iPad, both a week after their respective campaign launches.
Why is this a surprise? No one had ever seen a tablet like the iPad when it first launched in 2010. Plus , as with many Apple products, rumors and speculation about the device had been building at a fevered pace up to its announcement. With this type of anticipation, you'd expect the video campaign for the first iPad to dominate all future iPad video campaigns. This time, the changes may be incremental, but Apple is getting even bigger views. Logically, this shouldn't be happening.
How does Apple keep doing it?
Apple launched its very first iPad campaign during the Oscars two years ago. The campaign was centered around one key video asset: Meet iPad. Besides being the first ad campaign for the iPad, the campaign was special for another reason – it marked a shift in Apple's video advertising strategy. Prior to this iPad spot, Apple had been trying to drive traffic to Apple.com. Meet iPad was the first ad campaign that Apple actively pushed in video by publishing it to YouTube.
The campaign was a hit. It drove over 2.5 million views in a week and inspired over 100 video placements uploaded by audiences across the web, all which contributed to views for the campaign.
Fast forward two years to the third generation of the iPad. For its launch, Apple has published two key video assets: a 30-second spot that touts the benefits of its retina display, and a 5:30 long form featurette giving us an inside look into the technology powering Apple's latest creation, narrated by Apple executives like Michael Tchao, Eddy Cue, and Bob Mansfield.
This pair of videos, the typical 30-second TV ad and a long form featurette, has become standard practice for Apple with its product announcements. Both go onto Apple's YouTube page almost immediately after the product event. Apple has also made it standard practice to run paid media on YouTube for the new assets. The paid media component of these video campaigns makes them predictable.
This strategy of launching an ad alongside a long form featurette goes back to the iPad 2 launch, which drove over half the views for its Introducing iPad 2 campaign from its featurette. iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S also took this approach. The featurettes for both of these iPhone launches have driven well over 10 million views.
But if you go to YouTube to search for these original assets for Apple's past products, you'll be out of luck. Apple may have recognized the value of launching video campaigns for new products, but this doesn't mean that they've completely bought into a world where people are in control of their media and are free to choose to watch essentially whatever they want.
One of the benefits of online video for advertisers is that videos and campaigns never die. Even when paid media dries up, the video assets live on. When advertisers launch new campaigns, the old assets typically get a bump in views from being reactivated. Unless, of course, you kill them. And Apple has.
With every new product launch, Apple is effectively killing its old campaigns, making the assets private on YouTube. At a glance, this makes sense: you don't want people getting distracted from a new product with new messaging with an old product and old messaging. But Apple could be missing a huge opportunity here to drive viewership from its old campaigns to the new ones.
Besides a potential missed opportunity, it's nearly a futile effort. Online video allows audiences to copy, mix, mash, spoof, and repost ads across the web. And they do. Prolifically. So, Apple can shut down as many old campaigns as it wants, but people will still be able to find and watch those old campaigns. Case in point: Apple's 1984 campaign has over 13.6 million views from over 30 individual clips online without any involvement from Apple.
Missed opportunities aside, Apple seems to have developed a consistent distribution and content launch strategy in video for its new products: a standard 30-second TV spot coupled with a long form featurette, and paid, choice-based media online, as well as removing the campaigns for earlier generations of the product.
And while this means we may not be able to go back and watch the official videos of the iPad 2's launch, we can choose to watch the new iPad video content as often as we like. My guess is that 's exactly what Apple wants us to do.