Friday, March 1, 2024

Apple’s Super Bowl ad that was released 40 years ago almost didn’t happen

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On this day 40 years ago, Apple’s first Macintosh hit the shelves, making waves just two days after a groundbreaking Super Bowl ad introduced it to the world. The ad, titled “1984,” directed by Ridley Scott, became a cultural phenomenon and a pivotal moment for product launches.

Apple Inc. logo(REUTERS)

Apple’s board of directors’ doubts

Despite its iconic status now, Apple’s Board of Directors initially opposed the ‘1984’ ad. The 60-second spot, inspired by George Orwell’s dystopian novel, featured a hammer-wielding woman liberating minds from a Big Brother-like figure. Board members deemed it the worst commercial ever.

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Steve Jobs and Wozniak’s reaction

In an internal meeting, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were blown away by the ad. Jobs, upon seeing it, exclaimed, “Oh s–t. This is amazing.” Wozniak went a step further, describing it as “better than any science fiction trailer.”

Board’s cold feet

Board member Mike Markkula suggested firing the marketing agency, Chiat/Day, after watching the ad. The board, not impressed, wanted a new agency. Apple CEO John Sculley even contemplated selling off the Super Bowl airtime.

Chiat’s disobedience

Chiat/Day principal Jay Chiat, however, quietly disobeyed orders. Ignoring Sculley’s instructions to sell the airtime, Chiat kept the 60-second slot for the Super Bowl ad.

Woz to the rescue

When Jobs informed Wozniak of the ad’s trouble, Wozniak immediately offered to pay $400,000 out of pocket – half the cost of the ad’s airtime. Fortunately, this gesture wasn’t needed in the end.

The ad that almost didn’t

Chiat’s bold move ultimately played a crucial role in Macintosh’s success. Despite board objections, the ‘1984’ Super Bowl ad aired, kickstarting a 100-day advertising blitz and solidifying Apple’s place in history.

Chiat/Day’s legacy

Chiat/Day continued to handle Apple’s TV advertising until 2014. The ‘1984’ ad, once controversial, is now celebrated as a symbol of innovation and defiance. In the end, the ad that almost didn’t happen became a game-changer, marking the beginning of Apple’s journey into the hearts and homes of millions.

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