1984′, the tumultuous story of a commercial that barely sees the light

We all have the scene etched in our memory. 1984′ is undoubtedly one of the best advertisements in history and that beyond the quality of its production and the message transmitted, it was able to project the image of Apple as a groundbreaking and avant-garde company . It is worth remembering that in 1984, precisely the year in which the Super Bowl announcement was broadcast, IBM was the great reference in the world of computers and personal computing was still a chimera that almost nobody contemplated.

At the time, John Sculley was at the helm of the company and shared Steve Jobs’ enthusiasm for the Macintosh, a computer that would change the course of the company. Such was his conviction that they didn’t hesitate to book a block of advertising in the Super Bowl , entrusting the development of the ad to the ChiatDay agency. The American network CBS has interviewed its protagonists this week, and Sculley himself has recalled the difficulties they encountered in approving this campaign.

“This is the worst commercial I’ve ever seen in my life!”

1984′, the tumultuous story of a commercial that barely sees the light
1984′, the tumultuous story of a commercial that barely sees the light

Both Sculley and Bill Campbell, the marketing director at the time of the signing, have relived for the aforementioned television channel the difficult moments they endured months before their final screening. In December 1983, the advertisement was presented to the company’s board of directors and it seems that, after one minute of the spot, the faces of those present resembled those of the audience in the auditorium of the advertisement itself. Only the impression was not exactly positive. The first reaction was an absolute silence , basically due to the amazement of the audience.

Campbell remembers with horror how one of the council members broke the ice by shouting “This is the worst commercial I’ve ever seen!” , however and despite all the frontal opposition shown by the council, the ad managed to get through the filter by the skin of its teeth and was finally projected with the results we now know. Sculley remembers now that the mythical spot was about to end up in the trash, but the insistence of its promoters managed to overcome this great obstacle.

The all or nothing of Apple

What would Apple’s history have been like without the screening of the ad? The truth is that ‘1984’ was the kick-off for a style of communication of its own that has accompanied Cupertino’s company until today, and the concern shown by the board is partly understandable. Not only did the announcement involve a considerable economic effort, given the size of the company at the time, but the future of the Macinstosh was completely linked to the success or failure of those 60 seconds of projection. As Forbes pointed out, the ad didn’t ‘kill’ Apple by a long shot.

But in the history of this ad there is a lot of talent and also of chance: after the rejection shown by the board, Sculley ordered to sell the space hired in the Super Bowl, but the agency, according to the famous Jobs biography signed by Walter Isaacson, the executives of Chiat sold only a part of the hired space , and the remaining space was finally used to project the ad to avoid leaving a gap without content.

Los diez mejores anuncios de Apple

The ‘trap’ that gave the green light to the ad

The course of ‘1984’ until its broadcast was absolutely eventful, and it also has a certain amount of intrigue and mystery that would become known over the years. As we have pointed out, the initial rejection of the council had its foundation since the possibilities of failure of the spot were high . In the case of the directors who witnessed the premiere , it was an intuition, but as we shall see, they were not at all mistaken.

Fred Golberg was then the account executive for Apple in the agency, and pressured by the known urgency of the deadlines set by Jobs and his team, he kept an ace up his sleeve: the ad was sent to a market research agency that would measure the probabilities of success of the spot, and ‘1984’ got a score well below average , predicting a very likely failure in its broadcast. However, Godberg decided not to transmit this information to his superiors, and finally the spot got the green light from the agency.

In short, we almost ran out of an ad that is already part of the history of communication, and whose message and style is already part of Apple’s DNA . What would have happened if it had not been broadcast? It is difficult to speculate about this, but we are left with one piece of information: after its projection, Apple pulverized the best sales expectations contemplated for the Macintosh. And they weren’t exactly low.

At Apple

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