Some old Apple ads drawn by Simpsons creator Matt Groening surfaced in the The Daily Mail recently, and they’re visually shocking in the sense that under no circumstances can you imagine them being approved by CEO Steve Jobs today. They’re hand-drawn, crudely executed, and fail to display the cool hero of all current Apple advertising — the product itself.
Click here to see 30 years of Apple advertising >
The Groening ads are a reminder of how far Apple has come as a design-based brand. But that evolution only really began in 1997, with the “Think Different” campaign that placed style above product benefits and claims of technical superiority. Prior to that, Apple’s advertising was a stylistic mess, a grab-bag of random ideas, none of which gained the kind of pop-cultural traction that the company has today.
Apple was founded in 1976 and spent its first 20 years plainly uninterested in the power of style and design as a branding platform. It’s only in the last 14 years — and since the iPod was launched in 2001 in particular — that so much of Apple’s brand has been tied up in the sleek, spare, uncluttered designs we’re familiar with today.
Here’s a tour through Apple’s ad archive, courtesy of MacMothership, showing how an obscure computer parts supplier came to rule the advertising universe.
In an early marketing decision that would affect the company for the next 20 years, Apple saddled itself with the Apple Garamond typeface and the rainbow Apple logo -- two key style elements that were only dismissed in the late 1990s.
If you own one of these old shirts, hold onto it or sell it on eBay. Hipsters will make you rich. Once you've stopped chuckling, bear in mind that if Apple was publishing a lifestyle products catalogue it meant the company was big enough to publish a lifestyle products catalogue. It's reached a point where brand and style are becoming increasingly important -- although that's not obvious from the lack of coolness displayed here.
This Super Bowl commercial from ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day is regarded as a key creative moment for Apple and Super Bowl advertising generally. It borrows from George Orwell's dystopian tale to suggest that Apple users could smash the PC oligarchy. In hindsight, frankly, the ad hasn't stood the test of time, and it comes across as yet one more of Apple's random creative forays that didn't go anywhere.
These PowerBook ads were ubiquitous in the late 1990s, and they display everything that Apple got wrong in the previous 20 years: Enormous amounts of text, lots of hard-sell persuasion, and no sense that the product itself is cool or interesting.
Garamond and the rainbow logo are still here, unaltered in two decades. We're supposed to be interested in PowerBooks because these celebrities have them. Zzzz. And yet, Apple is at a turning point …
The devices themselves disappear from the ads in favour of gorgeous photography. This was the moment when style suddenly became important in Apple's ads. Ironically, Apple had to lose its products in order to gain its identity.
This ad could run today. It is the first Apple ad of the modern era. The product is the hero, displayed as the only living being in an otherwise featureless white universe. The technical aspects are ignored in favour of the styling. The iMac campaign recast Apple as a design brand. Everything follows from here.
The genius of Apple's attention to design is the fact that the company no longer releases products that require instructions. They are so well designed that consumers can figure them out intuitively without reaching for the manual.
As the product interfaces have gotten simpler, so has the advertising. One feeds the other. The product is its own marketing, and vice versa. Apple has achieved the kind of brand-product synergy that most companies only dream about.
Of course, the minimalist look is a trend of its own. At some point, it will fall out of style, like a rainbow logo or a serif font. Apple's response to that, on both a product design and brand marketing level, will be fascinating to watch.
26 Shockingly Offensive Vintage Ads That Would Never Fly Today >
26 Shockingly Offensive Vintage Ads That Would Never Fly Today
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