Ad Analysis of Apple’s 1984 Commercial

Cameron Smith

For my commercial I chose Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl commercial. The goal of for Mackintosh was to make a commercial to break into the IBM ruled computer and technology business. The start of the commercial depicts a brainwashed line of people walking single file down a futuristic looking hallway. These people are dressed in all grey and have no emotion on their colorless faces as they are told what to do by what sounds like some kind of powerful leader over a speaker. This was Mackintosh’s vision as to show not only the individual but also all of its perspective buyers the possible future of society if the computer industry continued to be ruled by IBM. The commercial then switches to a scene where a woman holding sludge hammer wearing a white top and red shorts is sprinting away from security guards who are in hot pursuit trying to stop her. The commercial flickers back and fourth between video of the woman running and the dark lit room filled with all the brainwashed people watching their dictator speak to them. Then when the woman reaches the room where the leader is on screen speaking she stands in the middle of the room and begins to swing her hammer around preparing to hurl it. In the background we can see the guards closing in on her until finally she lets her sledgehammer fly and watch it connect with the large movie theater like screen. Then there is a huge explosion causing a bright white light to extrude from the front and we are shown a scan of the audience, which shows they are amazed by what they are seeing. Then the commercial sends words across the screen saying, “On January 24th Apple Computer will introduce Mackintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 wont be like 1984.”

This commercial has been called “the best TV commercial ever” by a large number of viewers as well as experts. Owner of the company Steve Jobs, set out to make a commercial that would “stop the world in its tracks.” This commercial other than being completely mesmerizing was filled with powerful symbolism, which perfectly attracted the attention of all possible buyers. . In a Forbs article a man by the name of Bart Cleveland says, “It speaks to people intelligently by not saying too much. It doesn’t try too hard to be amazing. It is truth. It took the truth that Orwell shared decades earlier and applied it to our future. Our freedom. In 60 seconds it made you root for the underdog, which you realize is you.” The government in the commercial is meant to represent the powerful company IBM who at the time took most of the business and were beginning to scare dealers due to the amount of control they had. Apple is seen as the only company, which can give IBM a run for their money and to secure the “freedom” of the people.

I find this article to be very interesting and I cannot imagine what it would have been like to see it in 1984 during the Super Bowl. Not only was this ad technologically magnificent for its time but it contained an element of surprise that played a large role in creating its popularity. Before this commercial many people were completely oblivious to the existence of Apple which is why IBM had no competition for so many years. The semiotic and psychoanalytic appeals are very prevalent in this commercial.  They are all perfectly described in a “Brain Rules” article about this ad. The quote says, “All of the elements are at work here. Nothing could be more threatening to a country marinated in free speech than George Orwell’s 1984 totalitarian society. There is sex appeal, with the revealing gym shorts, but there is a twist. Mac is a female, so-o-o … IBM must be a male. In the female-empowering 1980s, a whopping statement on the battle of the sexes suddenly takes center stage.” Through all of this you can clearly see how this launched Apple into the competitive market and is acclaimed as one of the best commercials of all time.


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