Wayback Wednesday: Apple Macintosh's Game-Changing "1984" Ad

by James Thompson

Every Wednesday AdForum's James Thompson features a seminal ad from the past that in some way revolutionized advertising by profoundly impacting our industry, our culture, or the way our society interacts with commerce. 

Today we look at the year 1984, and feature the eponymously titled ad “1984” that introduced the Apple Macintosh to an American audience captivated by Super Bowl XVIII in Tampa, Florida, where the Washington Redskins played the Los Angeles Raiders.

The ad aired during the third quarter. However, this was the second, and last, airing of the commercial. “1984” first aired just before midnight on December 31, 1983, in 10 local outlets – Twin Falls, Idaho, for example – so it qualified for consideration in the 1983 advertising awards.

Apple legend Steve Jobs championed the ad by only unveiling it to board members – who were unnerved by its dystopian aesthetic and dark portrayal of society – when it was too late to pull the ad from airing during the Super Bowl.

The cultural significance of “1984” is monumental as it leveraged the power of George Orwell’s iconic novel 1984 – unsettlingly familiar to every American, especially Big Brother and the concept of an omnipotent and omnipresent government that rendered the populace a soulless workforce of homogenized drones – with the burgeoning technology revolution that would soon change all of our lives forever. The rest of the ad speaks for itself, as does its continued poignancy as technology increasingly defines how we live – and perceive – our own existences.

So take a trip back to 1984 by watching the ad “1984.” We’ll see you next week with another installment of Wayback Wednesday.

(Note: The Los Angeles Raiders beat the Washington Redskins in Super Bowl XVIII, 38 – 9.) 

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