Is this one of the best ads of our generation?
Because it tapped into the zeitgeist, i.e., 1984 and fears about Big Brother (which have been realised, albeit in a distorted way), it has become an iconic advertisement. This advertisement introduced the Macintosh personal computer for the first time, and was considered a critical moment in both advertising, and in the computer industry. Many considered the commercial, directed by Ridley Scott, and written by Steve Hayden and Lee Clow, as a masterpiece. The ad. was produced by Chiat Day. The only daytime televised broadcast was on 22 January, 1984, during the third quarter of the US Super Bowl XVIII.
There are two, not dissimilar, ways to interpret the advertisement. The first was explained by Steve Jobs at a 1983 Keynote address:
It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers initially welcoming IBM with open arms now fear an IBM dominated and controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right?
An alternative perspective is a broader one, which was summed up by one of the writers at Chiat Day, Lee Clow:
Apple wanted the Mac to symbolize the idea of empowerment, with the ad showcasing the Mac as a tool for combating conformity and asserting originality. What better way to do that than have a striking blonde athlete take a sledghammer to the face of that ultimate symbol of conformity, Big Brother?
Regardless of how the audience might interpret it, the 1984 Macintosh advertisement signalled to the world that we had entered a post-humanist age, where technology would no longer be a tool, but be part of how we create our identity.
See also Mac vs. PC – Part 1
And here is why you shouldn’t ask your customers about how to develop ads (or products for that matter).