The Forgotten Apple Superbowl Ads and Lessons Unlearned

Sometimes it’s good to remember a little industry history. On this Super Bowl day, when I’ll be ignoring pretty much everything on TV, perhaps it’s time to look back at all three of Apple’s Super Bowl ads.


1984 – 1984

Everyone remembers Apple’s 1984 Superbowl ad that featured the introduction of Macintosh. It was and still is a massive legend in both the advertising and computer industries.


Lemmings – 1985

Many people in the industry, at least, also vaguely remember Apple’s 1985 follow-up Superbowl ad, Lemmings, that went over about as well as the Star Wars Holiday Special, or, for that matter the amazingly unsuccessful “Macintosh Office” introduction that the ad was promoting.


2000 – 1999

What almost nobody remembers is that the return of Steve Jobs to Apple also meant the return of Apple’s Super Bowl ads in 1999. This time the ad, called 2000, featured a mockup of the HAL-9000 console from Stanley Kubrick’s film 2001 and had HAL telling Dave that the economic collapse in the year 2000 following the Y2K bug was, indeed, the fault of all those non-Macintosh computers. Yes. Really. Apple, under Steve Jobs, spent millions of dollars to produce an ad whose entire purpose was to spread mindless panic about a problem that was already vastly overblown.


Lessons Unlearned

While 1984 featured hope and was a success, Lemmings featured ridicule and failed and 2000 featured fear and failed.

Perhaps the lessons of these ads and the lessons of which 2008 Presidential election themes succeeded and which failed will be learned by Steve Jobs, Apple and the Republican Party. Recent history seems to show that none of them have quite figured yet that hope and vision trump contempt and fear.


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