The "1984" Apple commercial was broadcast on January 22, 1984, during a break in the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII by CBS which introduced the Macintosh computer.
The idea behind the commercial was to differentiate the brand from the then popular IBM computer.
While Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs loved the ad, the Board of Directors hated it and felt it was "stupid" and "irresponsible." In fact, at one point the Board wished to pull all advertising funds from the campaign which would mean the ad would never be seen.
Jobs was so passionate about the ad that he offered to pay half the airtime for the ad if Wozniak (Apple co-founder) would put up the other half. It never came to this.
The thrust of the ad was simple: A futuristic look at what happens when the power of technology is left in the hands of the few.
While Apple denies the "Big Brother" aspect of the ad represents IBM, it is clear that while IBM was the market leader at that time, Apple was placing themselves as the clear alternative to traditional technology.
There were several unique elements of this ad, including the fact that the actual product was absent. Also, it only aired primarily one time, which was during the Super Bowl. Also, the Macintosh computer was not even available when the ad was released!
The reception for the ad was overwhelmingly positive.
Despite the fact the Super Bowl was the reason people were watching, next morning gossip revolved around the ad and how unique it was.
Following the success of the ad, a trend began in which companies started creating special and uniquely entertaining ads just for the Super Bowl. Companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi lined up a stable of ads they wouldn't normally run during normal advertising slot times just to make their broadcast time during the expensive Super Bowl ad slot that much more impactful.
Ted Friedman, in his 2005 text, Electric Dreams: Computers in American Culture, notes the impact of the commercial:
- Super Bowl viewers were overwhelmed by the startling ad. The ad garnered millions of dollars worth of free publicity, as news programs rebroadcast it that night. It was quickly hailed by many in the advertising industry as a masterwork. Advertising Age named it the 1980s Commercial of the Decade, and it continues to rank high on lists of the most influential commercials of all time [...] '1984' was never ever broadcast again, adding to its mystique.
At the end of the day, the "1984" ad became a signature representation of Apple computers.
Today, Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world at $108/share. Without a doubt, the 1984 ad helped define Apple as the "Indie Rock" sensation of computer technology to generations of men and women who prefer to "think different."Don't compete — DOMINATE.
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