Follow Your Gut and Band Together When a Client Says No?
One simply can’t imagine there’s a soul alive who hasn’t heard of Apple inc., maker of PC’s, iPads, smartphones, and endless other consumer products.
Today, it’s one of the world’s biggest IT companies, one for which consumers queue up around the block to get their hands on the latest iPhone.
But things were different back in the ’80s, when the relatively unknown Apple II computer was facing fierce competition from Compaq, Commodore, and IBM. This all changed in 1984 with the introduction of the Apple Macintosh computer and its now-legendary ad named after the same year.
Apple Macintosh Plus computer
So what makes this ad so notorious? Is it that it was only aired in its full 60-second form once during the Super Bowl XVIII? Or is it just because the great author George Orwell considered it copyright infringement due to the similarities with his novel 1984?
Or maybe it's because of the timeless theme of breaking free from restrictions, relevant until this day, made even more pertinent by the fact the ad was never meant to see the light of day.
"At the time, the entire board of Apple hated the commercial and ordered it to be shelved."
Say what? Yes, the commercial created by leading ad agency Chiat/Day and directed by world-renowned director Ridley Scott must have cost roughly as much as one of Jeff Bezos’ modest-sized yachts. Especially with the purchasing cost of ad time during the most popular televised sports event in the US.
Yet at the time, the entire board of Apple hated the commercial and ordered it to be shelved. Except for Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and then-CEO John Sculley, who were in love with the ad.
Along with co-founder Steve Wozniak, Jobs and Sculley showed copies of the ad to their inner circle. Reception ranged from total awe and bewilderment to near shock, which made them believe in the potential of their ad even more. It seemed to have a profound effect on viewers.
Famous Apple co-founder Steve Jobs loved the ad, feeling certain it would be a success
The team at Chiat/Day that created the storyboard, Steve Hayden and Brent Thomas, knew that Jobs was looking for a home run when they concocted “1984”. They visualized and produced the grim surroundings in which we see a room full of bald shaved, drone-like men marching in unison while staring obediently at a huge screen.
They appear to be dominated by “Big Brother” (cleverly meant to resemble IBM’s “Big Blue” computer) who is right in the middle of a speech about the power of so-called ‘Information Purification’.
From the depths of these dark grey and blue hues, we see an athletic blonde woman in bright red shorts running towards the scene, carrying a sledgehammer while being chased by police.
As Big Brother concludes his speech with the words “We shall prevail”, the woman runs up to the screen, hurling the sledgehammer into the air, completely shattering it to pieces.
We are left with a scrolling text accompanied by a voiceover, saying:
“On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984”
As you can imagine, the rogue members at Apple knew they were onto something.
But CEO Sculley got cold feet, ordering Chiat/Day to re-sell the 90-second ad spot they purchased for the Super Bowl.
As they successfully sold 30 seconds of the slot, Wozniak and Jobs plotted to personally buy the rest of the slot together.
It was unnecessary. Chiat/Day claimed they were unable to re-sell the remaining 60 seconds, while they didn’t even attempt to. Thus, the ad aired, stunning audiences all over America while tremendously boosting sales and making Apple a household name.
"The ad was so popular that movie theatres kept replaying it even after Apple finally halted it due to a cease and desist letter received from George Orwell’s Estate."
It goes without saying that they made the right call, winning awards for the ad was just another cherry on the cake. The ad was so popular that movie theaters kept replaying it even after Apple finally halted it due to a cease and desist letter received from George Orwell’s Estate.
So how did they know it would be such a success? They didn’t. But this story teaches us that when it comes to creative decisions, sometimes you just have to go with your gut and band with the few others who share the same feeling.