The Apple ‘1984’ Super Bowl Ad That Almost Wasn’t

That classic Orwellian ad by Apple that made Super Bowl commercials as popular as the game itself was actually reviled by the company’s execs, who attempted to yank ‘1984’ before it aired.

“We showed them a rough draft, and they thought we were insane.”

This year’s Super Bowl XLVIII marks the 30th anniversary of this iconic spot, and of the Macintosh computer it touted as a hip alternative to IBM’s products. If it hadn’t been for Steve Jobs’s love of the commercial—and some ad execs who didn’t follow orders from the top—Super Bowl XVIII viewers’ jaws wouldn’t have dropped as the muscled blonde athlete ran through director Ridley Scott’s dystopian vision wielding her mighty hammer of freedom from the mundane.

Fred Goldberg, one of the ad execs who helped the spot see the light of day, says Apple’s higher-ups didn’t get it, and were worried about the image it conveyed: “We showed them a rough draft, and they thought we were insane,” he’s quoted by Yahoo TV. “Everybody thought it was going to look badly on Apple. Because Apple was really getting hurt by IBM at that point. In 1983, [IBM] was really beating the heck out of Apple … 98 percent of the companies in the world were using PCs. The [Apple] board of directors didn’t think this was a very smart looking thing to put on the air. Here we are, slapping the [industry] leader in the face.”

Jobs had already screened the ad for attendees of the Apple keynote address in San Francisco the previous year. Despite his excitement, Apple execs ordered the company’s advertising  firm, Chiat/Day, to sell back the 90 seconds of ad time it had bought for the big game. Agency founder Jay Chiat sneakily managed to nullify that request.

“It was Jay Chiat’s direction that everybody move very slowly, so we did,” says Goldberg. “And look what happened.”


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