Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl Spot – The Backstory

Nine frames of original TV storyboard for Apple’s groundbreaking Super Bowl commercial, “1984”
Stuart Elliott labeled this the “Best TV Commercial Ever Made.”

THE YEAR IS 1983 AND APPLE IS ABOUT TO LAUNCH a new computer called Macintosh. Steve Jobs thinks it will change the world. He wants to do a big introduction. Someone says, “Let’s throw a simultaneous launch party in NY, Chicago & LA with the most famous rock bands on the planet.” After Apple’s CFO runs the numbers, the upstart computer company realizes they can either throw the parties or make the computer. Jobs tells his agency, “Do us a TV commercial or something.”

<-- BEGIN “A TRUE STORY BY STEVE HAYDEN” HERE -->

“Why 1984 Won’t Be Like 1984” was conceived as a print headline the year before by Gary Gussick & Mike Moser. The long copy newspaper ad never ran. My art director partner, Brent Thomas, and I purloined it for our purposes. It was the inspiration for the whole spot. Our own “Suits” tried to keep us from shooting a :60 version because the client had only signed an estimate for a :30. Without authorization, I authorized it. After the spot was finished…

<-- BEGIN WALTER ISAACSON STORY HERE -->

Jobs previewed the ad for the Apple sales force. They were thrilled. But when Jobs previewed the ad for the Board of Directors, everyone in the boardroom was mute. Philip Schlein, the CEO of Macy’s California, had his head on the table. Mike Markkula stared silently; at first it seemed he was overwhelmed by the power of the ad. Then he spoke: “Who wants to move to find a new agency?” Sculley recalled, “Most of them thought it was the worst commercial they had ever seen.” Caught between a rock (Jobs) and a hard place (the Board), Sculley got cold feet and told CMO Bill Campbell to “figure it out.” Campbell, a former football coach, decided to throw a “Hail, Mary.” He told his team, “I think we ought to go for it.”

<-- END ISAACSON STORY, RESUME HAYDEN STORY -->

The only reason “1984” aired was because we were unable to sell off half a million dollars worth of Super Bowl time and had to fill 60 seconds with something. So we really owe it all to the ineptness of Chiat/Day’s media department.

ANDVERTISING PARTNERS:
Art Directors: BRENT THOMAS & LEE CLOW
Copywriter: STEVE HAYDEN
Announcer: ED GROVER
Agency Producer: RICHARD O’NEILL
Production Company: FAIRBANKS FILMS
Director: RIDLEY SCOTT
Clients: STEVE JOBS, JOHN SCULLEY, BILL CAMPBELL

To read “Steve Jobs,” by Walter Isaacson on your Kindle, click here.
To view “1984,” click here

About David Wojdyla

In 1999, he founded “&WOJDYLA,” the first ad agency to put clients first. Building on success, Mr. Wojdyla co-founded “(and)VERTISING INC®,” a seamless marketing agency with a knack for making complicated subjects simple.
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One Response to Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl Spot – The Backstory

  1. Steve Hayden says:

    David—FULL DISCLOSURE—Hank Antosz, Chiat/Day’s then Media Director, was the one who recommended the Super Bowl in the first place. And 1984 ran because of the extreme competence of Chiat/Day’s media group. On instructions from above (thank you, Jay Chiat), they sold a :30 to Hertz and a :30 to Heinz, but held back a :60 so the spot could run.

    steve

    Like

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