On this day in 1984 they held an annual football game in the USA called Superbowl XVIII. Barry Manilow sang the national anthem. Los Angeles Raiders defeated the Washington Redskins by 38 points to 9. The next day nobody was talking about the game. Nobody was talking about Barry Manilow. Nobody was talking about the half time show, a salute to the superstars of the silver screen.
Everyone was talking about an ad that played during the game. An ad that ran on that day only and never again. An ad that became the stuff of legend.
Chiat/Day ad agency commissioned Ridley Scott to direct the slot. He took inspiration from George Orwell’s novel 1984. He depicted a controlled society in the future, similar to the dystopian vision of Orwell’s book. Then a blonde girl in a white shirt and orange shorts throws a hammer through a very large screen. We are then told that Apple is about to change the world. And to be fair they did. They launched the Apple Mackintosh, the first mouse driven GUI computer, the things we all use now.
Some said the “Big Brother” in the ad represented IBM. Others suggested it represented Bill Gates. Everyone wanted to know what exactly Apple was about to launch. The ad was made before a working prototype was available so the product does not feature in the ad. The important thing is that the ad, like all good ads followed the mousetrap analogy. If you want the trap to work you have to leave room for the mouse. A good ad has a certain amount of the unknown about it, the observer has to walk into the ad and try to figure out what is going on.
In this case the analogy is doubly profound because it launched a computer with a mouse.
Still considered the greatest every Superbowl ad the Apple Mac launch 1984 ad generated millions of dollars in publicity and was aired for free thousands of times in news and reviews shows. It then went on to win multiple awards at the Cannes Lions, generating further publicity for Apple.
It took me 4 years post launch before I got my hands on an Apple Mac. It was still fresh and new then.