Last week saw the 30th anniversary of a television advertisement that changed a company and an industry. It’s not often you can say that about a 30 second television ad but in the case of Apple’s “1984” ad aired during the 1984 Super Bowl it’s true.
The ad is a take off of the classic movie of the same name and was even directed by Ridley Scott. If you watch the ad today (I recommend you find it on YouTube), you may think it was very much an ad of its time. It was however the first major cinematic minimalist television campaign. Its tagline “Why 1984 Won't Be Like 1984", positioned Apple as a true alternative in the personal computer market. Within 3 months of the Super Bowl ad airing, $155 million worth of Macintoshes had been sold.
The ad is rated as one of the greatest of all time by industry types however it was almost never shown. When the ad was sent to a research company for testing it was panned by all the panellists who saw it. However in an extremely brave move, the exec at the agency that came up with the ad chose not to share those results with his bosses at the agency or Apple. That’s either ballsy or career suicide depending on the outcome.
When the ad was shown to Apple, Steve Jobs loved it and the rest of the Apple Board hated it but Jobs had his way and the ad aired. The rest as they say is history. The ad not only changed a company’s fortunes but also the advertising industry itself. It made the advertisement almost as compulsive viewing as the programme it disrupted. It was also one of the first ads to go viral being played on news shows across the globe gaining further publicity and airtime. It could have all been so different if that account manager had not had belief in his creative. He however went on to become CEO of the agency and then launch his own. Sometimes you have to just have the courage of your own convictions.
Tim Youngman is director of marketing for Archant.