Apple: a history in ads

Today (10 August), Apple has, if only briefly, been named the world’s most valuable company. With a market capitalisation of $346.7bn, the tech company has narrowly eclipsed oil giant Exxon. Quite an achievement for a tech company that launched its first product just 27 years ago.

By way of a celebration, Marketing Week looks back on the company’s advertising landmarks, a history that takes in the full gamut of popular culture from George Orwell to Peep Show.

Our journey, starts at the, err, beginning with Apple’s first ever advertisement. Apple bosses use the year of launch, 1984, to demonstrate that with the introduction of its computer, Orwell’s portentous vision of a future ruled by a tyrannical despot will be avoided for a technicolor world of possibility. Hurrah for Apple!

Apple quickly found its positioning feet with this; an early ad that squarely pitted cumbersome Windows powered PCs against the adroit simplicity of the prettier Mac. A dad is seen struggling to answer the bating of an impatient child demanding to know “where the dinosaurs can be found” on his impenetrable PC. This before said child leaves in a huff to use their neighbour’s Mac. Dad later finds the dinosaur, it was his PC! Sledgehammer, but effective, messaging that established Macs as a nimble alternative to the prosaic PC.

And so to Apple’s “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” moment. A sickly sweet ad that, with all the humourless grandeur the soft drink giant occasionally demonstrates, attempted to show how the company was shaping the future of the world – you know, for the kids – by helping schoolchildren connect to the then nascent world wide web. A lack of humility that was, mercifully, soon addressed.

To the noughties, and one of a clutch of musician-starring ads that underpinned the arrival of the first in Apple’s recent run of technologic revolutions – the iPod. Eminem, Jack White and Mary J Blige all featured to demonstrate that the digital music player should be the first choice for fans of every musical hue. Irish popsters U2 feature here, doing their bit to change the (music) world.

Later in the same decade, a return to its roots with this, an anglicised version of the “I’m a PC / I’m a Mac” campaign. The UK friendly version starred entirely appropriate Peep Show characters, the free spirited Jeremy – the Mac – and the uptight conservative Mark, most definitely a PC. So effective was this that clearly bristling PC cheerleaders in chief Microsoft adopted the “I’m a PC” line as a badge of honour for its own campaign just a few months later, you know, to appeal to people that want to be defined as dull by their choice of technology. Smart move.

The ad that announced the launch of the iPhone in 2005 took us on a journey through great on-screen phone “hello” moments from TV and film history. What? You didn’t know their where any great on-screen phone “hello” moments? Well, there aren’t but cramming an ad full of Hollywood’s great and good is always going to leave people feeling great and ready to buy stuff. Job done.

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