One of my favorite parts of Apple events (besides Jony Ive’s voiceovers) is the ads. Apple has always made great ads; and while there is a clear distinction in the direction the company has gone post-Jobs, I think it’s starting to establish a new style without forgetting what’s worked in the past.
Apple’s commercials have gone from being inspirational to almost parodying themselves and now the company appears to have found the balance it needed.
Some of the most memorable and effective Apple commercials haven’t been the ones with celebrity cameos or a sassy Siri response, they have been the ones that people can relate to. That’s what Apple does better than a lot of technology companies when it comes to advertising – it seamlessly blends technology with emotion in a way that make the ads apply to people using any brand, not just Apple.
Of course, Apple isn’t the only company doing this; Google is up there too with some of the best advertising in tech.
Taking a trip down memory lane, here are some of the best Apple ads from the beginning until today:
Apple II (1980s)
Built by Steve Wozniak, the Apple II is probably the best work done by one individual in the computer industry to date. All of its commercials focused on telling the world that Apple was the only way to go for personal computing on every level.
Apple Lisa (1982)
The Apple Lisa (named after Jobs’ first daughter) came out in 1982 with a commercial starring a young Kevin Costner. Already anticipating the divide to come in later years between Windows and Mac fans, the ad states that “Soon there’ll be just two types of people – those who use computers and those who use Apple’s.”
1984 – Macintosh
Undoubtedly the most famous Apple advertisement is ‘1984,’ directed by Ridley Scott, introducing the first Macintosh to the world.
The 60-second commercial – which has been named the greatest TV commercial of all time by TV Guide and Advertising Age magazines -aired during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII.
Apparently, the original plan with the ad was to air the 60-second commercial and then follow it up with this unreleased 30-second version.
Apple’s board of directors weren’t convinced by the ad initially and had actually asked Chiat/Day (Apple’s ad agency) to sell its advertising slot at the Super Bowl and can the ad. However, the agency only sold 30-seconds of the time allotted for Apple and ran the 60-second version. The rest is history.
Who is Newton? (1993)
The Newton MessagePad was a complete commercial failure for Apple, despite being the first device designed to really free people from the desktop. Perhaps the world just wasn’t ready to be freed in 1993.
Think Different (1997)
The Think Different campaign ran from 1997-2002 and was a special one for the company. Legend has it that when Steve Jobs returned as CEO after a ten-year leave, Apple was on its knees financially and only had 90 days to live. The company needed a new lease of life, and quick.
However, it wasn’t Jobs that came up with the slogan, it was Craig Tanimoto, art director for Apple’s beloved ad agency Chiat/Day.
The idea came about when Tanimoto sketched out a boxy looking Macintosh with “This is not a box” written underneath it, in the vein of Rene Magritte’s infamous surrealist work, “Ceci n’est pas une pipe.”
Jobs loved the ad so much, he even recorded an unreleased version of it where he does the voiceover. A special truncated version of the ad also featured Jerry Seinfeld and aired just once, during his show’s series finale.
She’s a Rainbow (1998)
To celebrate the launch of its new iMac, Apple came up with a colorful ad campaign reflecting the fact that this was the first PC that came in anything more exciting than beige.
Cast your mind back to 1999, when people were genuinely freaking out about Y2K. Apple played it cool and released this Super Bowl ad to show the Mac was immune to any apocalyptic computer bug.
The first iPod (2001)
This was the very first ad introducing the iPod, so, of course, it’s about nothing more than the music.
Directed by Errol Morris, Switch was a series of minimalist-style ads featuring famous people who had switched from PC to Mac. Some of the celebrities who appeared were pro-surfer Kelly Slater, Will Ferrell and Tony Hawk.
Upgraded iMac (2002)
Apple upgraded the iMac in 2002 and gave it a complete makeover that made it a favorite among design enthusiasts. The desk lamp-style iMac was featured in a short film produced by Pixar, as well as its well-known window shopping ad.
iPod and iTunes “Silhouette” (2003)
Apple launched this ad campaign in 2003 to promote its iPod line and the then-new iTunes store. The first commercial featured the Black Eyed Peas but subsequent versions have had music by U2, Jet, Daft Punk, Eminem, Bob Dylan (Steve Jobs’ favorite) and Coldplay.
When Apple launched the 12″ and 17″ PowerBooks in 2003, they were revolutionary for the time. In true Apple style, the ad for the new line was played during the Super Bowl and featured the diminutive Verne Troyer with pro-basketball player Yao Ming towering over him, intended to illustrate the two sizes of PowerBooks available.
I fought the law (2004)
Apple partnered with Pepsi and Green Day in 2004 for its Super Bowl ad, kicking off a promo to give away 100 million free tracks on iTunes. The aim of the promo was to stop kids downloading music illegally online by portraying people who had been caught. Not sure it had the effect Apple had hoped for.
Get a Mac (2006-2009)
The ‘Get a Mac’ campaign was the successor to Apple’s ‘Switch’ ads. While the PC vs Mac culture was very relevant, this campaign just solidified the war.
iPhone ‘How to’ (2007)
When Apple finally released the iPhone in 2007, it aired a series of ads that were essentially explainers on how the phone worked to prep the world for its arrival.
There’s an app for that (2008)
The App Store launched in 2008 and naturally, it gave Apple a new way to make money. So, Apple released a series of ads to let everyone know.
At every Apple event, product demos are executed perfectly and one of the company’s best examples (in my opinion) was this one showing off the thinness of the MacBook Air.
Apple revealed its iPad commercial, featuring Blue Van’s ‘There goes my love,’ during the Oscars in 2010.
All kinds of fun (2010)
When the iPod Touch came out in 2010, Apple did the usual commercials for TV, but it also teamed up with music website Pitchfork to create a series of immersive Web ads.
Meet Her (2010)
Apple released a series of ads in 2010 to show the various features of the iPhone 4. Making its first real foray into the land of merging technology with emotion, this FaceTime ad was designed to pull on heart strings.
Apple Genius (2012)
The Genius ad campaign is memorable, but not because they were good. The ads were supposed to portray Apple’s staff as being geniuses, which they did, but they also managed to make the customers look like idiots. Not cool.
No, Apple didn’t release its Pencil, in 2013. But the company did use a pencil illustrate the thinness of the then-new iPad Air.
This is my favorite Apple ad of all time. It is so powerful and instantly relatable for every family, no matter where they are or even if the devices they own are Apple or not. It also serves as a response from Apple to everyone who says encouraging kids to have their heads buried in phones and tablets is bad.
The Song (2014)
Apple did it again in 2014, making a very effective and emotional holiday ad that showed its products are for everyone, one way or another.
Your verse (2014)
This was a creation of Apple’s in-house team and showcased people using their iPads in clever ways set to a track of Robin William’s speech from ‘Dead Poets Society.’
Shot on iPhone 6 (2015)
Stepping away from celebrity cameos, Apple gave users a chance to showcase their mobile photography skills, using stills and short videos shot solely on the iPhone 6 with its 2015 ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ campaign, which went on to win at Cannes Lions.
Apple’s latest announcements – the iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, iPhone 6s and 6s Plus – all came with similarly styled introductory videos voiced by Jony Ive. The only commercial available right now is for the iPhone 6s:
It’s not exactly emotional, but it’s the first ad and rightfully shows off what’s changed (everything, apparently).
It will be interesting to see if Apple continues in the same vein of advertising with its latest batch of products, or if we are in for something new.