With the Super Bowl coming up in 72 hours or so, let's take a look at what, to me, is hands down and without rival, the best Super Bowl tv spot ever. Apple 1984, which ran January 22nd, 1984, introduced the world's first Macintosh and immediately took the world by storm.
What's usually not considered in any discussion like this is the competitive context this spot appeared in: Apple had introduced the Apple II in 1977 which became in many people's minds the first mass market, popular personal computer. The introduction of spreadsheets for the Apple II drove the computer into the home and small business market. IBM, then the mainframe computer company accustomed to dictating "Big Brother" style to its users, made the radical decision to take a small group of IBM engineers, sequester them in Boca Raton with the charge of developing a competitor to the Apple II quickly...not confined by the typical circuitous, bureaucratic IBM development cycle. IBM launched their first PC, together with LOTUS Accounting software, on August 12, 1981 with a wily advertising campaign featuring the "Little Tramp" Charlie Chaplin figure which warmed up the cold IBM corporate image and was used to demonstrate how easy the computer was to use.
IBM immediately legitimized the market and was instantly carried by new IBM PC stores...and Computerland stores which sold both Apple and IBM products.
By summer 1983, six months before the 1984 Super Bowl, the IBM PC was on backorder and supplies were so low that the company suspended advertising for most of the summer and early fall. At the same time, IBM continued work on their top secret "home" computer, ultimately called PCjr which was to launch with a 1984 Super Bowl commercial featuring Chaplin in home use...sweet little Charlie continuing to interact with his PCjr, introduced from a baby carriage.
I worked on the IBM PC account as a very young kid (the source of much of the background for this entry) at the time and little did any of us every expect to see the spot which Apple, their agency Chiat Day and director Ridley Scott unleashed on the world that January 22, 1984.
This spot strikes back with a glorious competitive and imaginative vengeance never seen before on a Super Bowl and never quite seen since. IBM is equated to Big Brother (they were know at the time as Big Blue). Hordes of shackled workers/prisoners shuffle toward the telescreen to hear IBM's indoctrination. They are the faceless, lifeless corporate workers who have no choice but to use the BORING computers IBM produces (forget that cute little Charlie Chaplin, please...this Big Brother world is the real IBM).
Apple presents a vivid, athletic and vivacious alternative...an aggressive woman who destroys Big Brother and liberates his followers with a remarkable javelin throw, setting the business world free for a truly innovative, easy to use personal computer.
OK...so that's the backstory...why is this the best?
1. No other spot has ever created such a frightening and exhilarating self-contained world.
2. No other spot has ever been as competitive...or as violent.
3. This is the most beautiful Super Bowl spot ever shot. Gorgeous sets, beautiful lighting, an enormous range of gray tones.
4. The powerful and sexy javelin thrower is a brilliant choice to destroy Big Brother.
5. No ever spot has been as successful at reversing a rival's ad campaign, sending IBM right back to the position they were trying to escape from with Chaplin. Apple bursts right into the lucrative business market. The IBM PC (for business) was on back order and trumpeting a jr computer (why, why, call it that??)
6. And what a way for Apple to enter the business market. They're still there with the a whole line of innovative laptops while IBM no longer even manufactures personal computers...so who has the last laugh now. Well...this was just written on my MacBook Pro.
7. The spot was the first Super Bowl blockbuster. Many followed.
8. Viral...well, in retrospect, this was the one of the forerunners of viral.
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This is a modified version of an entry originally written two years ago for The New Advertising.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our most literate President, grew up as a voracious reader--often walking twenty miles to borrow a book from a neighbor. He read late into the night until his candle burned out and in the fields when he should have been working. What were Lincoln's primary sources? The Bible and Shakespeare. He committed many passages to memory and could draw, at will, on their descriptive language and rich cadences.
Wonder where the Gettysburg address came from? Lincoln's deep reading in classical texts. It's just ten sentences. If only all modern communication could be so brief and so remarkably effective.
The Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln
"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate...we can not consecrate...we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government: of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."
One of my resolutions this year is to follow Lincoln's reading list. Less television, less contemporary fiction, less business books and articles on how to use the latest social networking tools. Sure I'll read them. But I'm going to focus on The Bible and Shakespeare. It's easier than ever...I can carry them around in my pocket on my iPhone or iTouch. Or even my new Apple Tablet. I don't have to walk 20 miles to borrow a copy. Which eliminates a lot of excuses.
I have no illusions of writing anything like the Gettysburg address. But I do believe I'll have a better view of mankind, both good and bad, when I'm done and, hopefully, be more articulate, concise and engaging. After all, how can I go wrong with The Bible and Shakespeare?