How Kerry Washington, Taraji P. Henson and Mary J. Blige Came Together for Apple Music's Emmys Ad

Spot Grabbed Hearts and Headlines

Published On
Sep 21, 2015

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During last night's Emmy Awards, perhaps one of the most talked about moments was when Scandal's Kerry Washington, Empire's Taraji P. Henson and Mary J. Blige came together for a touching musical moment -- not on stage, but in a new ad for Apple Music.

The spot features Ms. Washington and Ms. Henson approaching a well-appointed abode, their faces erupting in delight when they hear an old school track from Slick Rick as Ms. Blige greets them at the door.

Once they're inside, the three revel in a nostalgic dance party to tunes from everyone from Phil Collins to Blackstreet to Diddy.

Why all the musical reminiscing? Ms. Blige was just sorting through some past mixtapes and also happened to discover Apple Music's own playlist service, which quickly throws your favorite tunes together for you. "It's like you have a boyfriend who makes you a mixtape in your laptop," observes Ms. Washington.

The kicker reads "instant boyfriend mixtape service."

The first of a three-ad series titled "Chapters," the spot gained praise from Emmy-watchers including writers for New York magazine, the Guardian and E!, whose headline rated it "all people care about on Emmys Night." The Twittersphere gushed, praising it for everything from its casting to director choice to musical selection.

The commercial was created by Translation, in its first work for Apple, and was directed by "Selma" director Ava DuVernay.

Translation founder and CEO Steve Stoute said the agency worked with Apple Music's Jimmy Iovine and Bozoma St. John, head of global consumer marketing, iTunes and Beats Music.

Mr. Stoute said the agency came up with the idea about two months ago, not necessarily intended for the Emmys. "I've always been a big supporter of African American Women, who are an underserved audience in our industry for reasons that make completely no sense to me. Everyone talks about streaming, but no one speaks to this specific segment. I felt like Kerry Washington was a great representation of this group, so I spoke to Jimmy and we went through some ideation."

Mr. Stoute said the agency chose Selma director Mr. DuVernay because it felt like "the right thing. We tried to make a statement around African American women."

According to Translation CCO John Norman, the ads were largely improvised. "There was a lot of freedom within the framework of the scripts," he said. "We set up the premise, seeder lines, and Ava was really great at getting [the actresses] in the mood and getting them to open up."

The idea for Emmys placement came up during the shoot. "Literally, we were on set and Ava was doing her thing and it came together," said Mr. Stoute. "John [Norman] was like, 'We can make great 60s out of this to run.' The original thinking was that it would run on Scandal, Empire, but debuting the 60 on the Emmys came from the camaraderie on the set, and the magic these women were creating."

The Emmys spot serves as the first of a three-ad series, titled "Chapters." Mr. Stoute said the two new commercials will debut in the next 6-8 weeks during major primetime events. Mr. Norman added that the upcoming spots will feature the same cast and continue the storyline of the intimate gathering between friends. The third, he said, will likely tug at your heartstrings.

Read the full story on Apple Music's Emmys ad on