In The '80s, Apple Made The Worst Super Bowl Ad Of All Time
At the Super Bowl in 1984, Apple aired its most famous TV ad, appropriately titled "1984." It shows uniformed people marching in unison then sitting and watching propaganda on a giant screen. Then an athlete in bright colors runs up to the screen and throws a hammer, shattering it. A voiceover reveals that this is an ad for the upcoming Apple Macintosh.
If you read this article's title, and know the ad, you may be feeling a bit confused right now. Are we calling "1984" the worst ad of all time? It's known as one of the best ads of all time. Sure, it's hard not to laugh now, hearing Apple labeling its products as for nonconformists, but the ad was still very well received and effective.
No, we're not here to mock "1984." We're here to mock the follow-up that Apple aired the following year, "Lemmings." It very clearly tried to replicate the success of "1984." Ridley Scott had directed "1984"; for "Lemmings," they got his brother, Top Gun director Tony Scott. This ad too shows a bunch of blind conformists and then one rebel, ending on a narrator announcing a new Apple product. Only, instead of dystopian future citizens sitting in a room, these conformists are modern people in suits, blindfolded and walking in a line off a cliff.
Viewers hated this ad. They simply didn't find mass suicide very inspirational. "It's not actually suicide," some Apple exec presumably argued. "It's just symbolism, and this doesn't realistically depict anything. It's basically the exact same tone and message as the last ad, which you all loved!" Yet people saw a big difference between "you are all being forced to obey" and "you're all blind idiots who'd follow each other to your deaths." Unrelated, but still kind of eerie: In 2012, Tony Scott would go on to kill himself by jumping off a bridge.
People disliked the ad so much that rather than try to redeem themselves with yet another follow-up next year, Apple abandoned the idea of Super Bowl ads for the next decade and a half. And what about the product it advertised, the Apple Office—a business suite that combined a server, a printer, and a network? The company didn't actually have it ready anywhere close to when they announced it, and in the end, they canceled the whole project.
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To look back more on Apple's blunders, check out:
In The Late '90s, Apple Was Teetering On The Edge Of Disaster
5 Reasons You Should Be Scared of Apple
Dirty Tricks Apple Uses to Get You to Buy a New iPhone
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Top image: Alexander Schaelss