Monday, November 7, 2011

Amazing Moments in Advertising: Apple warns that if you don't buy their products, you may kill yourself

(photo @

In 1984, Apple premiered what many still consider to be the greatest televised advertisement of all time.  This commercial, which was directed by Ridley Scott and aired aired during the 1984 Superbowl, was aptly named 1984. If you have ever seen it, then you know that this was a fairly obvious reference to the George Orwell novel of the same name.

 If you haven't seen the commercial, then watch it right now. It's awesome.


In case you've never heard of '1984' or have a complete unawareness of basic symbolism, the commercial is supposed to represent the individualism of Apple (in the form of a hot chick with a hammer) fighting against conformity or "The Man." Even though the creators of the ad denied targeting IBM as the enslaving overlord figure, Steve Jobs pretty much said that's totally who they were talking about.

The ad ended up being a slam dunk for the company, but it almost didn't even make it to air due to members of Apple's board unanimously hating it.

And we know that executives always
make great decisions about what people will like.

Fortunately, the advertisement was approved, aired to a huge national audience, and was a huge success. It redefined commercials as an art form and gave them the possibility of being "events" rather than status quo product placement.  

Unfortunately, when Apple tried to make lighting strike the next year with a special commercial, things didn't turn out too well.

During the 1985 Superbowl, the company decided to run a new ad called 'Lemmings.' This one was even pre-advertised in newspapers with print ads warning newspaper readers "If you go to the bathroom during the fourth quarter, you'll be sorry."  

And not just because this will have been fully digested.

For this commercial, the execs figured that a dystopian, depressing future was the magic formula to making their advertisement succeed. This of course meant that they had to turn the 'Mad Max' factor up to 11 without regard to anything else that made the prior year's advertisement successful.

And now, behold the most depressing and disturbing computer advertisement in history:

If you haven't begun to question your reasons for living and still feel emotionally stable, let's take a look at what went wrong. For starters, the atmosphere for this one was very weird, but not in a good way. Unlike '1984's cast, which looked like people from another time and place, this one has people in business suits marching in some type of morbid, suicidal conga line.

And speaking of suicide, there is a big difference between telling your customers "buying our product helps you break free of conformity to be your own person" and "buy our product or you will probably end up killing yourself."  Both are nonsensical and hyperbolic statements, but one is very positive and forward thinking while the other is just depressing and a little insulting.

As far as the music is concerned, '1984' gave us ambient sound that slowly built toward the triumphant hurling of a hammer and a victory for the human race. 'Lemmings' gives us a distorted, atonal version of Heigh-Ho (originally sung by the 7 dwarfs from Disney's 'Snow White') along with background noises that sound like they were sampled from Satan's stomach after a large meal.  

Couple this with the fact that the reasons lemmings have a reputation as being suicidal is due to an old (and award winning) Disney nature documentary that staged the lemming suicides to look real (when in actuality they were being killed by the filmmakers), and the irony is sickening...and a little bit hilarious.

Should have been a synonym for cute. 
Became a synonym for stupidity and suicidal tendencies.
Thanks Disney

What really kills me is that this commercial could have redeemed itself a little with some type of triumphant ending. Instead, one guy pulls up his blindfold, the voice over admonishes us to buy Apple products (or die), and then he turns back to see another pack of his friends head towards certain death.  

Also, if you watch the commercial closely, I'm pretty sure he pushed the guy before him over the cliff.

"Yeah, well I'm 'pretty sure' that Jerry always
 leaves the copier with a paper still jammed in it."

Still, you can't fault Apple for most of its advertising over the years. Even though they didn't do another Superbowl ad until 1999, most of their campaigns have been wildly successful.

Their consumer technology is not just sought after for being innovative, user friendly, and fun; Apple has also managed to make their products a fashion statement. They have somehow managed to convince almost everyone that if you buy their stuff, you are a unique and special individual that doesn't think like everyone else...even though owning an iPhone or iPad seems to be becoming more of a birthright and less of a luxury.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go restart my computer. iTunes just crashed again.

                             legally blogged
An image that can hypnotize you
while it also spikes your blood pressure.

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