This Sunday commemorates what many believe is truly a landmark event in advertising. It was in the Super Bowl 30 years ago that Apple ran the most famous Super Bowl commercial ever, a 60-second spot entitled "1984," introducing the Macintosh computer.
Most people believe that, outside of subsequent airings in various highlight reels, that was the only time the commercial aired on TV.
No so. Here’s an article from The New York Times by Philip H. Dougherty that was published on Monday, Jan. 23, 1984, the day after that year’s Super Bowl:
"Yesterday’s Super Bowl telecast marked the opening of a far bigger competition than a mere football tussle: International Business Machines vs. Apple for dominance in the personal computer market.
"Each entered a 60-second commercial with the time alone costing more than $800,000 for each advertiser.
"In the process, the world learned that Lord, Geller, Federico, Einstein, the I.B.M. agency, is once again using the Charlie Chaplin character for PC jr, its new entry. But instead of Gary Merrill as the voice-over, this new campaign features the voice of Estelle Parsons. A baby carriage was also included in the spot for ”the bright little edition to the family.”
"The spot for Apple’s Macintosh can only be described as something else. It was created by Chiat/Day …"
Dougherty then went on to describe the commercial, which you can see below.
Then he wrote, "Since the $400,000 production was scheduled to be played only about 18 times in 11 markets, Jay Chiat was asked, ‘How can one amortize the cost of the spot in such a short time?’ ‘What we are amortizing,’ he responded, ‘is the future of the company. If we don’t do well, I.B.M. will own it all.’ "
Fred Goldberg, himself a legendary adman, worked at Chiat/Day at the time and in his memoir, "The Insanity of Advertising: Memoirs of a Mad Man," which was just published at the end of last year, confirms that the famous "1984" commercial was indeed seen repeatedly on TV after the Super Bowl on a limited ad schedule in selected cities.
Goldberg also writes, "Steve Hayden, creative person extraordinaire and then copywriter on the Apple account, gets most of the credit for conceiving the idea. Brent Thomas, responsible for the brilliant art direction in the commercial, along with Lee Clow, a uniquely exceptional art director and creative director at Chiat/Day, gets some credit too. Ridley Scott, the director who actually shot the spot, brought much to the production as well."
Then Goldberg adds this interesting information: "The fact is that an art director and copywriter working in the Chiat/Day San Francisco office on the Apple account a year and a half earlier had come up with the idea, before Macintosh was even a reality. Art director Mike Moser and copywriter Gary Gussick created an ad in 1982 for the Apple III computer: ‘Why 1984 Won’t Be Like 1984.’
"Steve Jobs saw the concept and rejected it. He didn’t feel the product it featured lived up to the revolutionary claim. Boy was he right, as the Apple III died a slow, excruciating death thereafter, not being a very elegant computing solution."
Goldberg then writes that the ad concept was resurrected for the Macintosh.
Here’s the "1984" commercial introducing the Macintosh, from YouTube: