Apple started the ball rolling for elaborate Super Bowl ads

January 05, 1991|By New York Times News Service

Apple Computer Inc. is credited with raising Super Bowl advertising to its showcase status when it created the futuristic "1984" commercial for the game that year.

The provocative ad, which introduced the company's line of Macintosh computers, left the viewing audience gaping and burnished the Macintosh name in the minds of millions.

The commercial, meant to be broadcast just once, also permanently raised viewer expectations for Super Bowl advertising.

Since then, commercials broadcast during the game have grown steadily more elaborate and more expensive.

For this year's game, Coca-Cola has developed special video effects for a halftime sweepstakes contest, and Anheuser-Busch will put its beer bottles through their paces in the third installment of the "Bud Bowl."

The dramatic Apple ad that started the tradition depicted a sledgehammer-wielding woman liberating a factory of ashen-faced prisoners from Big Brother, an Orwellian interpretation of the competition between Apple and International Business Machines Corp.

"It was supposed to be the big one-shot, something to stand the world on its head," said Steve Hayden, an executive with the BBDO advertising agency who wrote the commercial when he was a copywriter with Chiat/Day.

Chiat/Day was criticized for the stark content of the commercial, but Mr. Hayden recalls that introductory sales of the Macintosh exceeded projections by almost half.

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