30th Anniversary Of Apple’s ’1984′ Commercial

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This week Apple marks the 30th Anniversary of their Ridley Scott directed “1984” Super Bowl commercial.

This week Apple marks the 30th Anniversary of their Ridley Scott directed “1984” Super Bowl commercial.

A room full of blank-faced, greyish, and zombie-esque men fixated on the broadcast of a ‘Big Brother’-like figure from an enormous screen. Bursting into the auditorium and wielding a giant hammer enters an athletic woman in full-color. She rushes down the center aisle and hurls the large hammer at the screen, which explodes into a blinding light and thus ends the draconian projection. The commercial ends with a scrolling text and a voice reading:

”On January 24, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984’.”

Apple announced their first user-friendly personal computer to the world and drastically shifted the advertising landscape. Also, the ad subsequently solidified other practices such as employing first-rate directors and adopting a more ‘filmic’ approach to the world of marketing and commercials.

Apple Athlete 30th Anniversary Of Apples 1984 Commercial

The ad first aired on January 22nd, 1984, when the Los Angeles Raiders defeated the Washington Redskins during Super Bowl XVIII. Though the ad only aired once to a luke-warm reception and somewhat confused spectators, it has since garnered universal acclaim and has been used as a shinning example of advertising due in large part to the talent of director Ridley Scott, and the guidance (albeit brief) of Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs.

The Huffington Post recently posted that Steve Jobs gave his team but one piece of advice before setting out on the marketing of the Mac:

“I want to stop the world in its tracks”.

Enter, Ridley Scott. The director already had Alien and Blade Runner under his belt and reviewing the Apple commercial in hindsight, it’s no wonder he was the person to go to. Utilizing his uncanny technical ability such as the use of layered and deeply grungy set-design with a textured and highly atmospheric photography, Scott brought everything he had learned on both his previous science fiction film projects.

Blade Runner 600x304 30th Anniversary Of Apples 1984 Commercial

In a vintage behind-the-scenes video, Scott mentions the influence of Things To Come by William Cameron Menzies; based on the book by H.G. Welles with its use of obtuse and larger than life art-deco designs. Additionally, it’s apparent that there are similarities between the ad and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, with its drab underground workers dressed almost identically to those in the ad. Of course, there were also Scott’s own films as influence. He describes the walls of the ship Nostromo in Alien as being “business-like” when describing his approach to set-design on the TV spot as well as the washed-out, neon-lit world of Blade Runner, which is based off the novel of another influential science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick.

Things To Come 600x380 30th Anniversary Of Apples 1984 CommercialMetropolis Underdwellers 600x480 30th Anniversary Of Apples 1984 Commercial

Fred Goldberg was an accountant who acted as liaison between the ad’s creators and Steve Jobs mentions what exactly was Jobs’ reaction to the ad upon completion:

“He was the kind of guy you show something to, and he had a visceral reaction… He was right on it. He really liked it.”

It’s incredibly difficult not to include the ‘1984’ Apple ad with the best in advertising and science fiction / totalitarian narrative. On the week of its 30th anniversary, the commercial spot has lost little of its impact and influence on advertising and commercial film-making on both the big and small screen.

Below, check out the vintage behind the scenes video of the ad:

Images: Warner Bros., Apple Inc., ITV Studios, Kino International

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