In June 1999, TV Guide ran a cover story on the “50 Greatest Commercials of All Time.” Apple’s “1984″ ad was #1 on the list. TV Guide wrote: “With a single airing during Super Bowl XVIII, ’1984′ did more to change the way ads are created and viewed than any commercial in years. It was not the most heartwarming spot nor a big laugh getter, but it turned a little-known brand into a household name and set a new commercial standard for production values and cinematic style. ’1984′ also raised the financial stakes: Apple spent a then-outlandish sum of $400,000 to produce the ad and $500,000 to air it; 15 years later, a minute of Super Bowl time costs $3.2 million. Lee Clow, then executive creative director of Chiat/Day, recalls that ’1984′ almost debuted during a lowlier college bowl game. ‘We had to make a last-minute switch to the Super Bowl because Apple wanted to air the ad closer to the date when the product would actually be available for sale,’ he says. ‘Funny how something that simple could have changed a big piece of advertising history.”
"1984" is an American television commercial which introduced the Apple Macintoshpersonal computer for the first time. It was conceived by Steve Hayden, Brent Thomas and Lee Clow at Chiat/Day, Venice, produced by New York production company Fairbanks Films, and directed by Ridley Scott. Anya Major performed as the unnamed heroine and David Graham as Big Brother. Its only U.S. daytime televised broadcast was on January 22, 1984 during and as part of the telecast of the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. Chiat/Day also ran the ad one other time on television, in December 1983 right before the 1:00 am sign-off on KMVT in Twin Falls, Idaho, so that the advertisement could be submitted to award ceremonies for that year. In addition, starting on January 17, 1984 it was screened prior to previews in movie theaters for a few weeks. It has since been seen on television commercial compilation specials, as well as in "Retro-mercials" on TV Land. The estate of George Orwell and the television rightsholder to the novel 1984 considered the commercial to be a flagrant copyright infringement, and sent a cease-and-desist letter to Apple and Chiat/Day in April 1984. The commercial was never televised as a commercial after that. In one interpretation of the commercial, "1984" used the unnamed heroine to represent the coming of the Macintosh (indicated by her white tank top with a cubist picture of Apple’sMacintosh computer on it) as a means of saving humanity from "conformity" (Big Brother). These images were an allusion to George Orwell's noted novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, which described a dystopian future ruled by a televised "Big Brother". The rows of marching minions have direct cinematic parallels with those in the opening scenes of the classic dystopian film Metropolis. Originally a subject of contention within Apple, it has nevertheless consistently been lauded as a classic, winning critical acclaim over time. It is now considered a watershed event and a masterpiece in advertising, and is widely regarded as one of the most memorable and successful American television commercials of all time. The commercial was rebroadcast in an updated version in 2004 on its 20th anniversary, with the heroine modified to be listening to an iPod. Viewers generally saw the Big Brother target of the Apple advertisement as being Microsoft, with the original villain, IBM, being all but forgotten.
The classic Apple Macintosh “1984” commercial was aired only one time. Yet it is still remembered and discussed. Why? Because it was bold, risky and surprising. And it communicated the most important features of the Mac – the product is different, it will take on big blue, and it will change the way things are done.
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