Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Apple lovers, meet Sun Valley

Computer giant’s holiday ad campaign shot in resort area

Express Staff Writer

The cast and crew of Apple computers’ latest holiday ad campaign prepare to shoot at the Roundhouse restaurant on Bald Mountain last April. Though several resorts were in the running to be the location of the ads, which will run over the holidays and into the New Year, Sun Valley’s late-season snow allowed it to nab the spot. Shot locations included downtown Ketchum, Sun Valley Resort and the top of Dollar Mountain. Photo courtesy of Dave Butterfield

If that looks like Baldy in the background of the latest e-mail from Apple computers, it's because it is.

The shot, which is of a family carrying skis with the famous Baldy façade in the background, was actually shot on the top of Dollar Mountain last April, and is now making an appearance as part of Apple's holiday ad campaign. The campaign is meant to re-create a family vacation in Sun Valley, including horseback riding, skiing and other winter activities.

Competition over the location for Apple's holiday marketing was stiff, said Dave Butterfield, owner of Ketchum-based Diamond Sun Productions, the company that helped produce the shoot. Several Western resorts were in the running as of last spring, and Sun Valley was falling behind.

"We didn't really have perfect snow in April," Butterfield said.

But a late-season wintry spell combined with a few inches of fresh powder led to Apple's choosing Sun Valley over Squaw Valley, near Lake Tahoe in California.

An outdoor film crew invaded Ketchum, shooting at the Country Cousin on Sun Valley Road, around the Sun Valley Village, the Roundhouse restaurant on Bald Mountain and at the mountain's gondola.

The ads are likely to be viewed by a large majority of Mac owners, who receive regular e-mail "blasts" or advertising newsletters that feature shots of the mountain.

"The impressions are well into the millions," Butterfield said. "Imagine how many Mac owners there are."

The still shots have so far only been used in e-mails, but could be used as images on the screens of products such as the iPad or iPhone in television commercials. Apple could not be reached for comment as to possible uses of the photos.

"Whether it becomes part of a larger campaign remains to be seen," Butterfield said.

While there is no question that potentially millions of customers will see Bald Mountain in Apple's marketing, the question remains whether Baldy is recognizable enough to people outside the valley or to non-skiers.

"You have to be a skier to know Baldy," Butterfield said.

Aiding exposure, however, is the fact that "Sun Valley" explicitly appears on a sweatshirt that the family's youngest child is wearing in an iPad shot.

Despite that, Sun Valley Resort spokesman Jack Sibbach said he wasn't sure how much exposure the resort would get.

"It depends on how they're going to use the shots," he said.

This is hardly the first time Sun Valley has been featured in national media. Butterfield said the area is a "great" location for ad campaigns, and that many local residents have been featured in national marketing, including local alpine ski racer Reggie Crist.

"We have a lot of good-looking, athletic people here," Butterfield said.

The family chosen for the Apple campaign was not local, however. Though Butterfield said several local families were in the running, a family of four from the San Francisco Bay Area was eventually chosen as the faces of the campaign.

Several factors had an impact on the decision, Butterfield said, including demographic appeal and the fact that the family was not required to ski.

Before it appeared in advertising, Sun Valley was sought after as a location for films. Many Sun Valley residents are familiar with "Sun Valley Serenade," a 1941 romantic comedy set at the ski resort. "How to Marry a Millionaire" with Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall and "The Mortal Storm" with James Stewart were also filmed here, as were other, less-well-known films.

Film crews could easily access the valley by train, Butterfield said, but as crews expanded and the trains stopped running, Sun Valley became a less desirable location.

However, better technology in recent years has led to more spotlights on Sun Valley.

"We're seeing more action lately because of leaner crews," Butterfield said.

Better equipment means fewer crewmembers are needed for a shoot. The fewer crewmembers needed, Butterfield said, the easier it is to bring the crew to the mountain.

Will Apple be back? Butterfield said that remains to be seen. Other retailers such as L.L. Bean and Hallmark have done photo shoots in the area and returned for more, and Butterfield said he thinks Apple was happy with the results of the shoot.

"We may see them again," he said.

Sibbach said he also thought Apple and Sun Valley Resort worked well together.

"They just enjoyed being here and working with us," Sibbach said. "We were easy to work with."

Katherine Wutz:

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