28 Jan The Iconic “1984” Apple Super Bowl Ad Almost Never Aired

During the Super Bowl, 30 years ago, Apple rocked both the computer and the advertising world with the iconic “1984” ad to launch the Macintosh computer. The haunting ad cast an Orwellian theme, depicting the corporate world as grey drones and Apple as a rebellious, colorful heroine who hurls a hammer, smashing the big screen where Big Brother is portrayed — freeing the masses.

Tom Patty, former general manager of Chiat/Day, Apple Computer’s agency at the time, explained that this iconic and award-winning ad almost never aired.

Steve Jobs went to visit the Chiat/Day office in Los Angeles and requested they create an ad as great as the Macintosh. The team (Steve Hayden, Brent Thomas and Lee Clow) at Chiat/Day created just that. To make sure the ad was captured in their vision and stood out, they hired Ridely Scott, who had then recently become known for directing Blade Runner. Upon completion, Jobs viewed the commercial and loved it.

Chiat/Day purchased two spots to run the Macintosh ad during the 1984 Super Bowl, one to air during the first half and another for the second. Everything was ready to go, until the Apple Computer Board of Directors saw the ad, and had different visions.

“The Apple board hated the ad and could not understand why the ad did not feature the product. They requested Chiat/Day to sell off the time and stop the ad from running,” Patty said.

Chiat/Day then tried to sell both spots but could only sell one. As a result the ad aired only once during the game and never aired as a paid ad on television again.

“Even though the ad ran only once, the ad was featured on virtually every TV news show the next day. The media world had nothing to write about the game itself, since it was uneventful, so they spent all their time writing about and talking about this very bold 60 seconds of advertising. Apple ended up getting millions of dollars worth of free publicity, which far outweighed the money they spent to run the ad on the Super Bowl. This ad literally transformed the media world and ushered in the world we now know–where we expect to see bold, break through, outrageous TV commercials on the Super Bowl,” Patty said.

Lee Clow has hinted in recent statements on social media that Apple may be returning to the Super Bowl in 2014, thirty years after the original ad aired. If they do return, they have set a high bar to attain.

Patty retired from Chiat/Day in 1998 as “President and World Wide Account Director “.  His first book, entitled “Tom Patty’s Marketing Without Money” came out last year. He is now working on his second  book entitled “Blast Off! How to Boost Your Business into Orbit” which will be published in the fall of 2014. In addition, Tom gives Marketing Seminars and does one on one counseling as part of his volunteer work for SCORE, a nation-wide organization that recruits successful business people to help small business owners grow their business.

Written by Mark Capper, president of Kompas Strategy

Kompas Strategy