Five Things You Didn't Know About Apple's "1984" Commercial


We don't know if you noticed, but this entire week has been filled with companies "leaking" their Super Bowl commercials. That's how big the NFL's big game has become. This Sunday while you watch the Packers and the Steelers, you'll be bombarded with a stream of multi-million dollar commercials. But it wasn't always this way.

In 1983, an upstart computer company called Apple was about the verge of releasing its Macintosh personal computer and partnered with Chiat/Day to create a commercial that would, in the words of Steve Jobs, "stop the world in its tracks." That ad was the Ridley Scott-directed "1984" and it changed the way companies looked at the Super Bowl.

Speaking to MediaWeek, former senior vice president and creative director of Chiat/Day, Steve Hayden, told the story of how the historic ad spot came to be. He shed some light on what the board thought of the commercial, how it almost never happened, and debunked some myths. We picked the five most interesting things you probably didn't know...

1. The Sledgehammer Was Almost a Baseball Bat

When the commercial was originally conceived, Lee Clow, a copywriter at Chiat/Day, suggested that the star of the commercial—the Jane Fonda-looking heroine that runs up and smashes the huge screen—should be carrying a baseball bat. Thankfully, director Ridley Scott stepped in and insisted that she wield a sledgehammer instead, arguing that the effect would be much greater. He was right.

2. The First Version of the Ad Was Much Happier

The original version of the commercial, according to Steve Hayden, was more Jetsons than Metropolis. Chiat/Day wanted to remove people's fear of technology and let people know that computers could really improve your life.

3. The Apple Board Hated It

After the production of the commercial had wrapped up, Macintosh marketing director, Mike Murray, and Steve Jobs presented the ad to the Apple board of directors in the Fall of 1983. When the lights were turned back on, Jobs and Murray saw the most of the board members holding their heads in their hands. The chairman at the time, Mike Markula, finally said, "Can I get a motion to fire the ad agency?" Though they detested it, they left it up to Steve Jobs and CEO John Sculley whether to run it or not. A first of many opportunities for Jobs to say, "I told you so".

4. Steve Jobs Didn't Want it to Run During the Super Bowl

When deciding where to air the ad, Chiat/Day suggested the Super Bowl, to which Steve Jobs responded: "I don't know a single person who watches the Super Bowl."

5. It Didn't Only Run During the Super Bowl

There's a big misconception that the commercial ran once and only once, and that it's amazing that a commercial that was only aired one time had the effect and impact that "1984" did. Well, its airing at the Super Bowl did have a huge effect, but the ad had a much longer shelf life than the NFL's big game. Apple ran a 30-second version of the ad each of the country's top 10 markets. And in Boca Raton, Fla.—where IBM's PC division was headquartered. Cold blooded.
[MediaWeek]
Tags: apple, 1984, commercial, super-bowl
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