Apple’s “1984”: Greatest Commercial Ever Made Essay

“1984” is an American television commercial which introduced the Apple Macintosh personal computer for the first time. The commercial served as a significant milestone in the history of adverting and had a massive effect on the popularity of Apple. The ad consistently been lauded as a classic, winning critical acclaim over time. It is now considered a watershed event and a masterpiece in advertising, and is widely regarded as one of the most memorable and successful American television commercials of all time.

It aired only once on daytime television, on 22 January 1984 in the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII.

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The ad was not only rated as the best advertisement ever in 2007, it was also rated as the ‘Best Super Bowl spot in the 40 years history’. The turning point event was not the only computer advertisement that aired in these years, but it was “the only one that changed people’s lives”. The ad started the phenomenon known as “event marketing,” in which a high-visibility commercial garners a lot of extra free publicity.

“1984” also inaugurated the trend of showcasing commercials on the Super Bowl. And, most importantly for Apple, the ad brought consumers into the stores.

The commercial opens with a droning voice resonating through a science-fiction dystrophic setting, which is held in dark, blue and gray tones. Then you see emotionless, bald and almost robotic people marching in unanimity through a long tunnel with telescreens on the wall. Then out of nowhere, a young woman appears, dressed like an athlete, in a color-full sports outfit that forms a strong contrast to the dull gray environment surrounding her.

She carries a sledgehammer and is being chased by uniformed guards and then she runs up to the screen, hurls a hammer with a heroic grunt, and shatters the TV image of the said dictator named “Big Brother”. As the screen explodes, bathing the stunned audience in the light of freedom, a voice-over announces, “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce the Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like “1984.” The ad was an allusion to George Orwell’s noted novel, “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised “Big Brother”. After the ad was released in 1984, Apple became a household name in the United States.

Apple’s 1984 commercial’s aim was to brand their product, Macintosh with an ideology of empowerment and individuality; contrary to the 1970s perception that personal computers were tools invented for utilitarian purposes and designed to facilitate specific tasks. During those times, the trend was common and utilitarian, so with Macintosh deviating its image against the norm, the people’s attention was acquired with a bold ad set up by Apple. The 1984 ad’s strategy was to differentiate themselves by combating conformity and asserting individuality. It was a definite plus for Apple to choose to air the commercial during the most watched television event in United States, The Super Bowl. Surely, the amount of people watching was at an all-time high thus making the visibility of the commercial reach its maximum.

With a large number of people exposed to the memorable commercial, it is more likely to be remembered and talked about, thus making the Macintosh known and popular. Apple’s strategy of making the viewers of the Super Bowl, particularly a wide range of age, gender, ethnicity and social status as their target audience was a clever move since the more exposure, the better outcome. The commercial made a bold move in referencing George Orwell’s novel “Nineteen Eighty- Four” which could easily been misinterpreted and ended up scaring the audience with futuristic dystopian themes.

Fortunately, the ad was considered as revolutionary, innovative and positively shocking which is a good thing because it made the idea of Apple stick into people’s minds. With Apple imaging itself as the ‘hero’/’saviour’ of the masses against forced conformity, the commercial was a clever way of saying that ‘If you buy a Mac, the awful dystopian future will not take place and instead individuality and self-empowerment will dominate.’ Ever since that commercial, the Mac has glowed with an aura of rebellion and empowerment.

One major element on why the ad was so successful was, of course, the remarkable production values. Nobody had ever spent that much money to make a commercial look like a big-budget blockbuster movie. By bringing in the best people in the industry, the execution was astounding especially to the common individual. Steve Job’s vision of stressing the liberating power of the Apple Macintosh and paving the way for individuality was highlighted as the message of the commercial.

The advertisement delivered the message of what Apple as a whole stood for and what distinguished it from the multitude of other computer brands in the market. Steve Jobs thought he knew what was special about Apple: they were the underdogs, who’d battled the corporate giants and brought computing power to the masses. The 1984 ad glorified the Information Age into a good vs. evil battle between technologies. They considered the rival PC in the market as bad technology – centralized, authoritarian – which crushes the human freedom and controls peoples’ minds.

But we can be liberated from that bad technology by the good technology – independent, individualized – of the Apple Mac. In that instant when “1984” premiered, it positioned the Apple brand as creative, different and human while re-positioning its competition as staid, status quo and robotic. The commercial ultimately explained Apple’s philosophy and purpose; that people, not just government and big corporations, should run technology. If computers aren’t to take over our lives, they have to be accessible.

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