In the wake of the SuperBowl yesterday in New Orleans, discussion about Super Bowl commercials is always a hot topic and often this leads to Apple—specifically, Apple’s minute-long 1984 ad.
Apple has a long history of commercials. Below are my 24 favourite Apple ads. Click on the Watch this ad link to open a separate web page with video.
Under the covers
As a father of two, I find great joy in showing my sons what technology can do. The excited little boy on a FaceTime call with Santa reminds me of the times I’ve shown my sons how to do stuff on the computer, and how empowered my sons feel. My current all-time favourite Apple ad.
This Get a Mac ad actually opened the keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in 2009. It never hit the airwaves. It features PC (John Hodgman) attempting to greet the developers, but eventually, his true character comes through.
I was at the 2005 Apple iPod event when this ad was revealed. Of all the iPod silhouette ads, this one’s my favourite. But Apple quickly pulled the ad. A few weeks later, shoe company Lugz filed suit against Apple, claiming that the Eminem silhouette ad was a copy of its own ad that featured Funkmaster Flex.
A lot has been said about 1984, and chances are you’ve heard or read about it. But former Chiat/Day creative director Steve Hayden talked about the behind-the-scenes history and provided some interesting tidbits about the making of the ad.
This commercial aired during the 1985 Super Bowl. Clearly, Apple was hoping lightning would strike twice with this ad, but the effort falls flat. It’s often included in lists of worst Apple commercials, but I like it because it’s so disturbing.
Apple Japan had its own Get a Mac ads (so did Apple UK). Though the Japanese ads are very similar to the American Get a Mac ads, I find them charming in their own way. I don’t speak Japanese, and some very helpful people on the web have provided translation subtitles to the Japanese ads, but I prefer to watch them without the subtitles.
Siri and John Malkovich
Apple hopes people see this ad and learn more about Siri’s capabilities. I see this ad and learn that John Malkovich loves linguica.
Who is Newton?
There are some elements of this ad that you’ve seen in iPad and iPhone ads—mainly, the quick flashes of tasks being performed on the device. And there are plenty of other elements that Apple will never put in an ad again, such as real, everyday people, like Al and Ellen Newton (well, at least I think they’re real and not professional actors) or actors playing Sir Isaac Newton.
Sad song (long version)
The long version of this ad, featuring a country song sung by PC (John Hodgman), was on Apple’s Website. The reaction of Mac (Justin Long) is the exact same reaction I have when I hear songs about the greatness of the Mac or the horrors of Windows—get me outta there. But John Hodgman cannot be denied.
One constant in Apple’s ads: the “cool” factor. Is there anyone on this Earth cooler than George Clinton? When George is making his P-Funk, he’s making it on a Mac. Sweet.
This iPhone 5 ad highlights the camera’s Panorama feature. It’s a cute commercial, but anyone who’s worked with elementary school kids knows that you can never gets a groups of kids this large to stand still long enough to say, “cheeeeeeeeee—huff—eeeeese!”
Intel fab technicians called the outfits they had to wear “bunny” suits. In 1997, Intel started to use BunnyPeople in its ads. This is one of those ads that I didn’t really care for when it first aired, but looking back it has new meaning. Especially when you see the ad that’s next on my list.Watch this ad (YouTube)
Attendees at the 2006 Macworld Expo keynote seemed to like this ad, but reports at the time said that Intel wasn’t too pleased. Fans of The Postal Service didn’t like the ad either, saying it was a rip off of the video for “Such Great Heights.”
Watch the skies
It’s baffling to think that Apple thought a wireless router deserved a commercial. Instead of demonstrating what it does, the ad focuses on the AirPort Base Station’s UFO-like shape. I do applaud the effort, however, and the result was a quirky little commercial.
I don’t find the Switch commercials interesting, but of all the Switch commercials, I like this one featuring DJ Qbert, because he’s a San Francisco native (I’m a SF resident). I’m partial to seeing the local boys do well. The Tony Hawk ad is a bit more entertaining, thanks to some skateboarding footage. (Obligatory Ellen Feiss mention.)
During the 2012 Summer Olympics, Apple introduced a series of Genius ads that were immediately panned by critics and Apple fans. The ads were cheesy, uninspired, and very similar to lots of PC ads.I find the Labor Day ad amusing. The commercial confirms what I always suspected—like professional athletes, Apple Geniuses wear their uniforms at all times, even when asleep.Watch this ad (YouTube)
It’s easy to make fun of old ads, because they often showcase outdated social norms. Here, we have Dick Cavett talking to a woman about how the computer is great for those “pesky household chores.” But the woman is more interested in gold futures and her “small steel mill,” which Cavett finds surprising. And how about that red apple on the desk?
This commercial starring the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey aired during the 1999 Super Bowl. At the time, the media started to latch on to the Y2K bug story and the impending doom it would cause. Apple said that the Y2K bug didn’t affect Macs—and as it turns out, it didn’t really affect PCs, either.Coincidentally, 2001: A Space Odyssey comes to mind in the next Apple ad in this slideshow…Watch this ad (YouTube)
Set to “On the Beautiful Blue Danube,” (which is prominently used in 2001: A Space Odyssey) Apple’s latest iPhone ad promotes the availability of the iPhone on two carriers. The commercial features actions choreographed to the music on a pair of iPhones. The ad is not as mesmerising as the outer space scenes in 2001, but the music still makes the commercial fun to watch.Watch this ad (YouTube)
Two years before he became chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan made this Apple commercial. I wonder if he was still using an Apple IIc during Black Monday in 1987, or during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Maybe he was still using his IIc during the dot-com boom and bust in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
There were many entertaining Get a Mac ads, but this one cracks me up. It goes for the easy punch line, sure. Nothing wrong with that. The Get a Mac ad series ended in 2010 after a four-year run.
I like this iPod nano ad, but when it was first released, it drove me crazy. It seemed like it was on TV all the time, and the song “1234” is so catchy it sticks in your brain and it never goes away until the next iPod-ad-with-catchy-tune appears. And the complete music video of Feist’s “1234” is quite entertaining.
The Think Different campaign began during a down period in Apple’s history. The Crazy Ones commercial cast Apple in a new light.During the finale of Seinfeld, Apple aired a 30-second version of this ad that ended with a shot of Jerry Seinfeld. Nothing against Seinfeld, but I prefer the original, 60-second version that ends with the girl who opens her eyes.Watch this ad (YouTube)