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"Making Of" "Macintosh
The ad, the brainchild of
the Chiat/Day advertising agency, played
well when shown to an sales conference
in 1983. But the company's board of directors
balked and ordered the ad withdrawn from
its Super Bowl slot. Only the intervention
of Steve Wozniak, who said he'd pay for
the spot personally if the board refused
to air it, saved the day.
The 60-second film was created by the advertising
agency Chiat/Day, with copy written by
Steve Hayden and direction by Ridley Scott
(who had just finished filming Blade Runner).
Creative director Lee Clow was responsible
for this advertisement.
After Chiat/Day advertising
presented the storyboard to Apple, John
Sculley was apprehensive, but Steve Jobs
insisted that the Mac deserved such a radical
spot. They gave the authorization to shoot
the commercial and purchase time to air
it during the upcoming Super Bowl. On the
strength of his successful science-fiction
films Alien and Blade Runner, Chiat/Day
gave Ridley Scott a budget of $900,000
to direct the 1984 spot
The film was shot in London and most of
the actors were British skinheads hired
for the day at a cost of 125 USD each as
the director was unable to find enough
actors prepared to shave their heads. The
original script had suggested a baseball
bat but this was later revised to a sledgehammer.
The weight of the hammer made it difficult
to cast the part of the runner but Anya
Major (a discus thrower) applied for the
part and was chosen.
When the rough cut was assembled,
Chiat/Day proudly presented it to Jobs
and Sculley. Jobs loved the commercial
and Sculley thought it was crazy enough
that it just might work. In October, the
commercial was aired publicly for the first
time at Apple's annual sales conference
in Honolulu's civic auditorium. The 750
sales reps went wild when they saw the
Jobs and Sculley clearly thought they
had a winner on their hands, so in late
December, they asked marketing manager
Mike Murray to screen the commercial for
the other members of Apple's board of directors:
A. C. "Mike" Markkula Jr. (Apple
founder), Dr. Henry E. Singleton (Teledyne
founder), Arthur Rock (venture capitalist),
Peter O. Crisp (managing partner in Rockefeller's
Venrock Associates), and Philip S. Schlein
(CEO of Macy's California).
The original 1984 TV Advertisement
Big Brother Speaks
As 1984 was originally conceived, Big
Brother did not have a speaking role, but
director Ridley Scott wanted to give him
some lines. Copywriter Steve Hayden objected
at first, but agreed to put something together
when Scott threatened to write the lines
himself. Apple vehemently denied that the
propaganda-spouting Big Brother character
in its 1984 commercial represented its
$40-billion competitor, IBM. Decide for
yourself as you read Big Brother's harangue
from the full-length, 60-second commercial:
each of you is a single cell in the
great body of the State. And today,
that great body has purged itself
of parasites. We have triumphed over
the unprincipled dissemination of
facts. The thugs and wreckers have
been cast out. And the poisonous
weeds of disinformation have been
consigned to the dustbin of history.
Let each and every cell rejoice!
For today we celebrate the first,
glorious anniversary of the Information
Purification Directive! We have created,
for the first time in all history,
a garden of pure ideology, where
each worker may bloom secure from
the pests of contradictory and confusing
truths. Our Unification of Thought
is a more powerful weapon than any
fleet or army on Earth! We are one
people. With one will. One resolve.
One cause. Our enemies shall talk
themselves to death. And we will
bury them with their own confusion!
We shall prevail!"
When the lights came back up after the
spot played, the room on De Anza Boulevard
was silent. Schlein was sitting with his
head on the table. Markkula stared in amazement.
Murray thought Markkula was overcome by
the wonderful commercial until he broke
the silence to ask, "Who wants to
move to find a new agency?"
Sculley recalls, "The others just
looked at each other, dazed expressions
on their faces...Most of them felt it was
the worst commercial they had ever seen.
Not a single outside board member liked
Based on their initial reaction, Apple
executives booked two slots during the
upcoming Super Bowl. However, the Apple
board of directors was dismayed by the
ad and instructed management not to show
it and sell the slots. Despite of the board's
dislike of the film Steve Wozniak watched
it and offered to pay for the spot personally
if the board refused to air it.
A perhaps apocryphal story has Apple only
able to sell one slot and then deciding
that they might as well use the other and
show the ad. It aired at the first commercial
break after the second-half kick-off.
In reality, the reason the commercial was
saved from total cancellation was the result
of an act of defiance and an act of bravado.
According to the book The Mac Bathroom
Reader by Owen Linzmayer:
The board hadn't demanded the commercial
be killed, nonetheless Sculley asked Chiat/Day
to sell back the one and one half minutes
of Super Bowl television time that they
had purchased. The original plan was to
play the full-length, 60-second 1984 spot
to catch everyone's attention, then hammer
home the message during a subsequent commercial
break with an additional airing of an edited
Defying Sculley's request, Jay Chiat told
his media director, Camille Johnson, "Just
sell off the thirty." Johnson laughed,
thinking it would be impossible to sell
any of the time at so late a date, but
miraculously, she managed to find a buyer
for the 30-second slot. That still left
Apple with a 60-second slot for which it
had paid $800,000.
The decision whether to run the commercial
was left to VP of Marketing William V.
Campbell and Executive VP of Marketing
and Sales E. Floyd Kvamme. In the end,
the two decided to run the commercial.
The sledgehammer (here blurred by motion)
is thrown into the air at the screen by
the allegorical heroine. Despite costing
$900,000 USD to make and a further $800,000
of air time, the film was originally shown
nationally only once. However, it was aired
on television one other time.
' From the book Apple Confidential:
The famous "1984" commercial
that launched the Macintosh during the
Super Bowl in 1984 is purported to have
been shown only once; but to qualify for
1983's advertising awards, the commercial
also aired on December 15 at a small TV
station in Twin Falls, Idaho, and in movie
theaters for weeks starting on January
Even with this limited appearance, the
ad created such a media frenzy that it
gained many subsequent free TV airings
and print mentions as it was discussed
in the media. At the time Nielsen ratings
estimated that the commercial reached 46.4
percent of American households (50 percent
of all men and 36 percent of women.) These
tactics are part of what made the commercial
so influential in marketing circles; it
is now seen as the first example of event
marketing, and is popularly credited with
starting the trend of yearly "event"
Super Bowl commercials.