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My favourite ad campaign of all time: Apple’s ‘Here’s to the Crazy Ones’ from 1997

Without some very passionate advertising professionals developing the 'Think Different' campaign, Apple’s incredible rise from the ashes would probably have never happened – argues Prateek Mehta

In 1997, Apple was in deep trouble. In 2017, Apple was the most valuable brand in the world. Crazy, right?

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “To be great is to be misunderstood” And that’s what led TBWA/Chiat/Day to conceptualise the famous ‘Think Different’ campaign.

Lee Clow. Rob Siltanen. Craig Tanimoto. Ken Segall. Steve Jobs. You might not have seen them in the ads, but were there in spirit. They are the crazy ones who were passionate enough to think different, and change the future of computing.

Apple’s situation back then was outright ugly. Back in the 1990s, Apple computers were considered to be ‘toys’ that were incapable of ‘real’ computing. The press suggested that buying an Apple was dumb and spoke freely about Apple’s miniscule and shrinking market share.

But through ugly situations, come beautiful opportunities. Steve Jobs and the team at TBWA grabbed the opening, and how.

The Apple account was with BBDO at the time, but Steve Jobs had just made his comeback as interim CEO and wanted to bring his vision back to the table. He invited agencies to pitch for the account, and Lee Clow took the opportunity to get it back to TBWA after over 10 years absence.

Craig Tanimoto, an art director with TBWA/Chiat/Day, came up with the concept of ‘Think Different’ with a poster that shows a picture of Albert Einstein in black and white, with the colourful Apple logo in the top corner.

The creative teams were asked to put up their all their ideas and concepts on a board and this one just stood out. The simplicity and genius of it made it strikingly appealing. He wanted to create an entire series of these prints, honouring passionate individuals who changed the world.

The thought behind the idea was that like Apple, they all had amazing visions. But also like Apple, some of them were given unflattering labels, at one point or another.

The world’s greatest thinker, Albert Einstein, was just thought to be a guy with crazy ideas who flunked out of schools. But those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who actually do.

The print ads inspired Rob Siltanen to write a manifesto for the pitch to Steve Job and other Apple executives. Jobs initially hated the script and called it “shit”, but eventually with the help of writer Ken Segall they turned it into the legendary two-minute TV spot voiced by Richard Dreyfuss (the version recorded by Steve Jobs below is actually better than the Richard Dreyfus spot in my opinion).

And that’s how the company struck gold. The narrative evoked the spirit of Apple through Steve Jobs’ eyes. His passion and vision to change the future. The essence of Apple in a nutshell.

It’s not just about the product. It is passion that rules the day.

And Jobs used this passion as a tool for marketing his company, therefore winning the future of computing. Jobs gave a presentation at the 1997 Macworld Expo that planted the seed for the campaign, so it would seem more organic when Apple debuted the new marketing push.

And that’s how he revived the Apple brand and re-established the ‘counter-culture’ aura of its earlier days, setting the stage for future products. The campaign was discontinued with the arrival of the iMac G4 in 2002.

However, its impact can still be felt today. Passion can change the world. Find it. Nurture it. Unleash it.

Steve may have accomplished more than any other businessmen before him. But without some very passionate advertising professionals, Apple’s incredible rise from the ashes would probably have never happened.

Prateek Mehta is group copy supervisor at Law & Kenneth Saatchi & Saatchi in Mumbai, India

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