Apple's Marketing Chief Claims 'Agencies Are Forever' While Offering Creative Insights

Tor Myhren had encouraging words during his talk at Cannes Lions

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CANNES, France—The most senior marketer with tech giant Apple shared some of his creative insights at Cannes Lions, including his belief that there will always be advertising agencies and directing them to continue to challenge rather than agree.

Tor Myhren, Apple’s vp of marketing communications, relayed a number of tips and insights he picked up while working within the world’s highest-value company and brand since 2016, as well as his previous stint at Grey.

His speech began with the mission statement “Agencies are forever,” while also offering his views on ways shops and their clients could work better together.

He reminded those in the audience that “you are the outsider” and to see their role as challenging the client. “That’s the reason we have an agency. You can pay anyone to agree with you—that’s not very interesting,” he added. “It’s way easier to pull back than to push further, so push further on your own.”

Confidence is really important to put great work into the world.

Tor Myhren, vp of marketing communications, Apple

And because they act as “an outsider” to each client’s business, he believes agencies have a “superpower” to tell “concise and compelling” stories, while calling on strategists to be “brutally objective” when making decisions around work.

“The more that you set something up, the less we trust you,” he said. “Just get to the end.”

On a related note, he added that “layers are killers” and anyone working in-house at a brand should attempt to remove as many elements to a process as possible, stating that he had never been involved in any “truly great piece of work” that was multi-layered.

“With every layer, it tends to get worse,” he said.

Myhren believes that more creative companies will in-house elements of production, with brands aiming to “control” their own destinies. He cited Apple’s pivot during the pandemic to create virtual events for its regular product launch announcements starting with developer conference WWDC in 2020 as an example of a brand taking direct control.

That included developing the computer-generated environments chief executive Tim Cook appeared against in a virtual representation replicating the Steve Jobs Theater, where they usually take place.

Tim Cook appears at the virtual Steve Jobs Theater.
Tim Cook appears at the virtual Steve Jobs Theater.Apple

The first WWDC event had a larger viewership than the Oscars that year through YouTube, he claimed, having trended No. 1 on the platform in 50 countries alongside #appleevent.

“No matter how big or small your creative organization is, I think we become too reliant on other people to make our work,” he said, adding that creativity must be “a part of your [company] culture.”

Myhren also advised the audience to trust their instincts, and revealed that Apple as an organization never tested its creative prior to release.  

“We believe we know better than people in a room,” he said. “Confidence is really important to put great work into the world.”

Turning his attention to Apple’s distribution of advertising around the world, Myhren claimed that “media is art” and that when positioning any ad, a company should consider how to “make whatever space better” and releasing ads that did not “pollute” their environment. He shared examples of Apple’s own creative, including 40-foot bespoke double-sided stickers made for some of its storefronts.

Showcasing the accessibility campaign “The Greatest,” which has won at least one Grand Prix this week at Cannes Lions, he explained that it was produced because the company believed that it could design products that made lives better and put it in the hands of its disabled cast.

He described cause-related work as being “wonderful” when it was something that could help to change the world, but warned that the cause had to be “true to your brand” or else it could be “a recipe for disaster … it has to be baked into your DNA.”

He closed by opining that “we don’t have enough fun” in the industry to produce “great” and “optimistic” creative, but noted that businesses must “choose your own ways” to do that.