The Ad Copy Battle Behind the iPhone 6S

Lorna Rose Gill Posted by Lorna Rose Gill

image of an iphone 6s

The annual release of the latest iteration of the iPhone has become the new Christmas for Apple fans, with heartfelt wishlists, sleepless nights, and finally, the joy of tearing off the wrapping and opening up the box. The release of the latest generation, the iPhone 6S, is no exception, with 13m units sold in its launch weekend alone, and the Guardian calling it “the best smartphone Apple has ever produced” – even if they do criticise its battery life.

As with all big product launches, the final release of the 6S was carefully choreographed by Apple, with a reverent announcement ceremony on 9th September, followed by pre-orders kicking off on 12th September, and stores finally throwing open their doors to waiting customers on 25th September.

With all of the big mobile phone retailers all keen to secure a piece of the new iPhone action, it’s interesting to see who was dominating the SERP around the release, and what ads they were using to do so. Using Adthena’s market tool, we see the following pattern across September:

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is Apple itself which takes pole position on a range of iPhone 6S related keywords, with a share of voice rising above a huge 60% of the total market on the days immediately after the new device was unveiled. What may be more surprising is who was leading before Apple took over – mobile phone rival Samsung, who hijacked the terms and had the largest share of voice for a brief time. For fans of competitive intelligence, this might not be the most shocking news – when the iPhone 6 came out last year, Samsung were very visible on iPhone terms, competing with big retailers and networks like Carphone Warehouse and EE for clicks.

Towards the end of the month, once Apple fell back, the market became a scramble for impressions, with a number of retailers and networks battling for space, with Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse leading the way. We decided to look at some of the top ads from the period, and see what was making a connection with consumers. We’ve taken the top performing ad from each company in turn, beginning with the top-performing ad from Vodafone.


Vodafone did had several ads performing well, but the top one for the month was a pre-order ad which kept things simple and counted down towards the big release, building anticipation. The company uses a dedicated URL to point towards a page devoted to the phone, and uses its name in the headline, URL, and text to push across the brand. It pays off, with a lot of traffic, and a regular top position.


As a company known for emphasising simplicity in its products, its top performing ad on iPhone 6S terms reflects those values. The headline is the name of the product and nothing more, while the ad text uses the tagline from Apple’s other marketing campaigns: “The only thing that’s changed is everything”. This could be seen as a risky strategy, not mentioning anything like discounts or offers, but the recognition it can spark with potential customers who have seen the blanket TV and print ads can make a powerful connection.

Carphone Warehouse

The big retailer enters into the spirit of the campaign with its suggestion to “Be The First In Line”. It’s an appeal to people’s desire for exclusivity, a kind of shared experience that Apple promotes throughout with its announcements, and the queues that form outside its stores.


Another successful advert for pre-orders, O2 makes an effort to differentiate its ads by promoting “exclusive offers” as a “plus”. Though unspecific, the chance of added extras can obviously help pull in clicks, with this appearing in a good position for several days across the past month.


Three makes an effort to differentiate itself by using its ad text to promote an offer, and make a claim about the company. Promoting “4G at no extra cost” suggests better value than many of the other ads which just ask customers to pre-order, while referring to itself as “the most reliable network” distinguishes itself from the competition. However, it is also worth noting that nothing about the ad, other than the mention in the headline, indicates this is a dedicated iPhone 6S advert, meaning this could be a case of using DKI to add the term to a boilerplate ad, potentially lowering its quality and its ranking.


A long headline gives EE the space to advertise itself as the UK’s “no. 1 Mobile Network”, an attempt to establish authority and put itself above its rivals. Meanwhile, the ad text has a specific price for the phone plan, a more concrete offer that could attract customers who are keen to know what the actual best deal is.

Virgin Media

Another pre-order ad, Virgin doesn’t use concrete offers or specific deals to draw people in, but instead simply invites them to “Find out more today” – a general sentiment, that is overtaken in prominence by other Virgin ads which appear later in the month.


Most intriguingly, Apple rival Samsung goes for a very cryptic ad, that doesn’t even mention the iPhone 6S keywords that it appears on. “Yes, The Rumours Are True” alludes to something indirectly that it doesn’t even answer again, but presumably we are meant to infer the rumours are that Samsung’s own flagship device, the Galaxy S6 Edge, is better than Apple’s new release. The ad text itself backs this up, suggesting “There’s An Even Bigger Reason to Choose The Galaxy S6 Edge”. It’s a clever way of intruding into an ad space that Samsung would otherwise be completely out of, and has obviously piqued the interest of enough people to appear among the top performing ads for iPhone 6S keywords in the past month.


When a big consumer event like an Apple launch happens, it sparks a huge amount of activity, and even though brands will have been preparing for months, they have to be responsive to customer demands and small shifts in the market. Knowing how competitors are going to act, and what they are doing to gain an edge, can directly impact your own success. Adthena shows your share of voice compared to your closest rivals, and which ads they are using to claim that share, along with the traffic, estimated spend, frequency, display length and average position of each individual advert, as well as brand infringements on terms you choose. It’s an invaluable resource – and one you don’t even have to wait in line for.

No Adthena client data was used in this analysis

About the author

Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna Rose Gill
Lorna is responsible for acquisition marketing at Adthena, communicating their award-winning product and generating demand. She has developed her career in fast-paced, start-up environments, including two tech track 100 companies. She is curious and passionate and likes to find stories in data and technology.