Quite a bit of chatter has arisen over Apple’s newest “Genius” television ads. Some have called them “embarrassing.” Others? “Ehhh?” Even Ken Segall, one of Apple’s former advertising creative directors has given the ads a big thumbs down.
But are they really so terrible? If you take a look back, you’ll see rather quickly that Apple has produced much worse. In fact, I’d go as far to say that some of Apple’s previous ads make the new ones seem not just good, but absolutely amazing.
Don’t believe me? Check out this gallery I compiled of what I believe to be the top 10 worst Apple ads of all time. Watch out- some of them are pretty shocking.
#10. Switch- Ellen Feiss
You may recall Apple’s Switch campaign from the early 2000s. The ads all featured what Apple called “real people” who had switched to the Mac. What you may not remember is how bad some of the ads were. In particular, the classic ad featuring Ellen Feiss.
The ad featured Feiss looking sullen and tired, with slurred speech and disoriented eyes, leading to speculation that she may have been on illicit drugs. The switch campaign, which was overall rather ineffective, didn’t bode well for Apple.
#9. Power Macintosh- Serious Computer
During the mid 1990s, Apple’s business was on the rocks, and so was their advertising. In an attempt to gain more relevance in the business market, and area where Microsoft was dominating, Apple released several ads for the Power Macintosh, the workhorse machine of the time, promoting its compatibility with Windows.
The ads may have worked too- if they hadn’t seemed so unnatural and forced. Take a look and you’ll see what I mean. The entire thing seems canned and phony.
#8. The Power
Another one of Apple’s miserable attempts to reinvigorate its brand in the early days was the “Power To Be Your Best” series of commercials. One ad from the campaign sticks out in particular, which was the flagship ad of the series.
In it, we see not a whole lot to do with Apple, and instead, a whole lot of nothing. Most of the ad is just random “powerful” scenes, meant to evoke the feelings of speed and performance in relation to the Mac. The ad is actually pretty strange, showing a montage of storms, sweaty athletes, musicians, and an ominous finger moving through the air.
The spot culminates with the rather uninteresting clicking of a mouse button, followed by a satisfied looking man sitting by his Mac which appears to be emitting light rays. Pretty strange, right?
#7. Who Is Newton
I can’t decide what the strangest part about this ad is. Is it the scary man with the wig in the beginning? Is it the “guardian angel” with the large white wings who appears to be stalking the man in front of him? Or is the old guy sitting in the chair, staring at the camera while holding his Newton?
Whatever it is, it completely turned me off to the idea of the Newton.
#6. Apple II- Fruit
This one’s pretty old, so I’ll cut it a little slack. Still, it’s a bad ad. The entire 30 second span says nothing compelling about the Apple II, only offering fruit rolling around on a desk to the tune of cheesy sound effects. I’m sure this ad sold a boatload of Apple IIs.
#5. PowerMac G4- Super Computer Espionage
Like so many so other ads of the time, this one falls in place with Apple’s strategy of trying to become the cool brand again. The early 2000s were a time of rebooting a tired brand, and this ad was part of it. I don’t know, maybe it seemed cool at the time, but now it’s just another old and tired spy drama. Yawn.
#4. Future- Aliens
This “Future” ad was one in a long and arduous series of commercials that intended to promote the Power Macintosh as the wave of the future. The problem was that the ads barely showed the product at all. Instead, they mostly focused on abstract scenes or old Sci-Fi clips.
As you’ll see, more than one of these strange ads made it into the top 10.
#3. Future- Robots
In third place, we find another “Future” ad. While this one isn’t as abstract as the last, it’s just as weird and out of place, although I have to admit, some of the robots look pretty cool. Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be about Macs? Oh…
The Lemmings ad is by far my favorite awful Apple ad. Following just one year after the iconic “1984” ad, it had big shoes to fill, and it fell waaay short. The ad is based around the concept of the Lemming, a small rodent whose species has been thought to commit mass suicide during migration.
Thus sets the plot for the commercial. The blindfolded business people, the Lemmings, are lined up to fall off a cliff to their demise. Only when one user discovers the Macintosh Office are they saved.
This commercial has many issues, but the main one is the fact that Apple openly insulted the entire productivity market by comparing them to dumb animals who are committing suicide. Apple went so far as to say “If you go to the bathroom during the fourth quarter, you’ll be sorry.”
Perhaps those who didn’t take a bathroom break were the ones who were sorry.
#1. Future- Highway
Wow. That’s all I can say. I don’t even want to begin to dissect this ad. I watched it several times, over and over, trying to find a purpose, to no avail. Perhaps it’s best left unexplained.
So there you go, the 10 worst Apple commercials of all time. Still hate the “Genius” ads?