1984 Apple Board Hated “1984”

| News

Most Apple fans are likely to be familiar with the commercial known as 1984 - indeed, a large percentage of people who don’t qualify as “Apple fans” are likely to be familiar with the commercial, but according to the advertising executive who oversaw its creation, Apple’s own board thought the commercial was awful and wanted to fire Chiat/Day, the firm that created it for Apple.

This story comes to us from Steve Hayden, an advertising exec who became a Chiat/Day vice president while the commercial was being created. Mr. Hayden wrote about his experience in creating the ad for Apple for AdWeek, as well as some of the aftermath in working with the company after Steve Jobs left.

According to his account, the ad was born out of a brief for the ad from Steve Jobs that simply said, “I want to stop the world in its tracks.” It was also Steve Jobs that cast IBM in the role of Big Brother in the ad - Mr. Hayden said that the creative team that developed the idea had envisioned a much less metaphorical Big Brother as simply representing any repressive government looking to keep information out of the hands of its citizenry.

For those younger readers, we should add the context that in 1983/1984, the Cold War between the East and West was still raging, and had taken on new urgency as then-president Ronald Reagan was busily sending the Soviet Union into bankruptcy by outspending the Bloc with a massive military buildup the economy U.S.S.R.’s economy simply couldn’t handle.

Big Brother in the book 1984 was the representation of an authoritarian government that watched and controlled everything its population did and said (yes, it’s much more complex than that, but consider that sentence the abridged version of the abridged version of the Reader’s Digest abridged version).

These were important memes running through Western culture at the time (though we didn’t realize that because the term “meme” didn’t yet exist), and this is what the advertising gurus wanted to play off of, according to Mr. Hayden.

“The first version of the spot was more Jetsons than Metropolis,” he wrote. “The intention was to remove people’s fears of technology at a time when owning your own computer made about as much sense as owning your own cruise missile. We wanted to democratize technology, telling people that the power was now literally in their hands.”

Be that as it may, Steve Jobs saw Big Brother as IBM and the rest is history.

Mr. Hayden’s account includes several other tidbits about the commercial (some of which have been covered in books like Owen Linzmayer’s excellent The Mac Bathroom Reader and Apple Confidential 2.0, as well as other sources) that fans of the iconic commercial will find very interesting.

1984

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Comments

Lee Dronick

Steve Jobs that simply said, ?I want to stop the world in its tracks.?

I think that the ad did that. It was probably what was needed for Apple at the time.

xmattingly

Another little known fact is that this commercial was directed by Ridley Scott. Famed for also directing films such as Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, and Gladiator 2: Men in Tights. smile

mhikl

Samo-samo when Michelangelo underwent such travails during his grind at the Sistine Chapel.

mhikl

Hey xmattingly; Alien, Blade Runner, Men in Tights. Three outa five ain’t bad, eh?

full circle

Nobody’s noticed (ironically) how the 1984 commercial could pass as a modern Apple keynote?

Lee Dronick

Nobody?s noticed (ironically) how the 1984 commercial could pass as a modern Apple keynote?

Of course they didn’t notice. It didn’t seem like an Apple keynote at all.

Hey xmattingly; Alien, Blade Runner, Men in Tights. Three outa five ain?t bad, eh?

Gladiator wasn’t too bad, it wasn’t too great, but it certainly could have been worse. Saturday I needed a break from my studies and was slumming on the SyFy Channel. I started watching Mega Piranha, now that was a terrible movie. I couldn’t get passed the first few, I turned off the TV and picked the book back up.

Steve Hayden said that ?The first version of the spot was more Jetsons than Metropolis.? Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is one of my favorite movies, I highly recommend it for those who have not seen it.

Nitpicker

The word “meme” certainly did exist in 1984; it was introduced by biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book “The Selfish Gene”.

wab95

The word ?meme? certainly did exist in 1984; it was introduced by biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book ?The Selfish Gene?.

You are right about that, but Bryan is also correct in that the term had not yet found its way into the popular lexicon. Even in the late ‘80s I only ever heard this term on the medical school and university campus.

Another little known fact is that this commercial was directed by Ridley Scott

I was not aware of that, thanks!

Fritz Lang?s Metropolis is one of my favorite movies, I highly recommend it for those who have not seen it.

Will now look into it, Sir Harry, next time I’m back in civilisation.

Bryan Chaffin

Nitpicker said:The word ?meme? certainly did exist in 1984; it was introduced by biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book ?The Selfish Gene?.
You are right about that, but Bryan is also correct in that the term had not yet found its way into the popular lexicon. Even in the late ?80s I only ever heard this term on the medical school and university campus.

I’ll accept both the nit picking and the defense! smile

Lee Dronick

next time I?m back in civilisation.

Where are you? Safe I hope.

See the new trailer. For about 70 years or so there was some missing footage, thought to be gone forever. A few years ago they found an entire copy of the original in Buenos Aries. I have a DVD of it with the missing footage and am anxious to get a copy of the new release. We are talking video phones being used in a 1927 movie! “There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.”

FlipFriddle

Of course they hated it. When has design by committee ever worked.

Make sure you see the latest restored version of Metropolis if you can. It has many iterations but the version released in 2010 is the most complete.
http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Metropolis-Alfred-Abel/dp/B0040QYROA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296530027&sr=8-1

Lee Dronick

When has design by committee ever worked.

Make sure you see the latest restored version of Metropolis if you can. It has many iterations but the version released in 2010 is the most complete.

When I was in the Navy there was a saying that an elephant was a mouse built by committee.

I have had the new release of Metropolis on my Amazon Wish List, but none of the family has taken the bait. I will probably have to buy it for myself. Also on my list is Aelita Queen of Mars from which Lang supposedly took a lot of ideas.

iVoid

Nobody?s noticed (ironically) how the 1984 commercial could pass as a modern Apple keynote?

Actually, I’ve seen numerous comments around the Mac web about how Apple has become ‘Big Brother’ and how Steve Jobs now looks a lot like the guy on the video screen in that ad.

While Apple isn’t nearly that bad, they have shifted towards the dark side lately.

wab95

Where are you? Safe I hope.

Right now, Dhaka. I suppose a city of 12 - 14M qualifies as ‘civilisation’ of a sort, minus some amenities (like consistent electrical supply and/or internet access). Frankly, I’m grateful for running water, even if it has to be boiled.

I’ve heard of this movie many times, yet failed to have a look-see.

Make sure you see the latest restored version of Metropolis if you can. It has many iterations but the version released in 2010 is the most complete.
http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Metropolis-Alfred-Abel/dp/B0040QYROA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1296530027&sr=8-1

Thanks, FlipFriddle. Will look for that version.

Lee Dronick

Right now, Dhaka. I suppose a city of 12 - 14M qualifies as ?civilisation? of a sort, minus some amenities (like consistent electrical supply and/or internet access). Frankly, I?m grateful for running water, even if it has to be boiled.

Bangladesh. I have never been there, but I was in a number of South Asian cities, I can relate. Good luck to you.

Mjk

Funny that.  Who’s big brother now?  The company in question has become fluent in “Doublespeak”...

dhp

“Metropolis Restored” (the latest version) is available for streaming in HD on Netflix.

ctopher

Apple as Big Brother? Jobs as a dictator? Please. you can check out any time you like… (but you can never leave! wink )

Actually, you can. If you don’t like you’re walled garden, there’s the Android door. Or you may jailbreak. Apple won’t stop you. They won’t support you, but they won’t stop you either. Kinda like the Android phones. I’ll bet Verizon won’t help you fix up your phone if you’ve hosed it up after rooting it. But both devices allow you to revert back so who cares?

IBM was never big brother either. It was the I.T. bosses who had the phrase “no one ever got fired for recommending IBM.” Jobs wanted to fight that phrase so he made IBM the enemy. But they never were a big brother either.

Every company touts it’s advantages and spreads FUD about the competition. That’s the American way. Smart informed shoppers will decide what’s best for them and often, Apple isn’t best for them, either from a functional point of view or from an economic point of view. Either way, there’s room for everyone and competition is healthy.

Rave on fanbois of all persuasions!

Lee Dronick

Apple as Big Brother? Jobs as a dictator?

More like Network 23 and Ned Grossberg smile

darwin

Its not new information that the board didn’t like the ad.

CityGuide

More like Network 23 and Ned Grossberg

Max was a head of his time.

Lee Dronick

Max was a head of his time.

Good word play! Being just a torsoless head that was 20 minutes into the future, Max Headroom was both “a head” of his time and “ahead” of his time.

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