Thirty years ago today (January 22, 1984), the iconic Apple advertisement “1984” was first broadcast.1 The ad — which announced the launch of Apple’s Macintosh computer — was seen during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII on CBS and immediately generated widespread media coverage. 

Some quick facts about Apple’s “1984” advertisement:

  • The ad was directed by Ridley Scott because Apple’s then advertising agency Chiat/Day wanted the dystopian feel found in many of Scott’s films (such as “Alien” and “Blade Runner”).
  • Numerous times the ad has been ranked as the best Super Bowl ad of all time.2
  • At Apple there was an intense internal debate about the ad which almost resulted in the cancellation of its Super Bowl broadcast — while Steve Jobs and the Apple marketing team loved the ad, the Apple Board of Directors disliked it. Several felt it was the worst ad they had ever seen and one director suggested firing agency Chiat/Day.3
  • Although airtime for the ad during Super Bowl XVIII cost Apple $800,00, it generated an estimated $5 million in free publicity.4
  • The “1984” ad won numerous awards, including the Grand Prix at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity (formerly the International Advertising Festival) and multiple Clio Awards.
  • As part of the 20th anniversary celebration of the Mac in 2004, Apple digitally updated the ad to show the heroine wearing an iPod and earbuds.5

So Happy 30th Birthday to Apple’s “1984” ad!

  1. The advertisement actually was first broadcast during the last commercial break before midnight on KMVT in Idaho on December 31, 1983, in order to qualify for a 1983 advertising award. But today is the anniversary of when everyone except a few people in Idaho first saw the ad. []
  2. Forbes: “Experts and Viewers Agree: Apple’s ‘1984’ is the Best Super Bowl Ad of All Time” []
  3. Mental Floss: “How Apple’s ‘1984’ Ad was almost Cancelled” []
  4. The estimate of media coverage and related publicity costs from Chiat/Day, Apple’s advertising agency at the time. []
  5. This new version was both posted on the Apple website and shown by Steve Jobs during the 2004 Macworld Expo keynote address. []

By Kevin A. Barnes

I am a writer, marketing practitioner and astronomer-in-training. My interests include science, technology and the future of just about everything. You can learn more from my Bio page.

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