The Top 10 Worst Apple Ads Of All Time [Feature]



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…


#2. Lemmings

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?

  • Tally

    Nice trip down memory lane! Thanks Michael! I do love Apple, but most of those were some pretty rough ads… I don’t remember thinking they were all that terrible when they were respectively released, but I distinctly remember thinking WTF to the Lemmings ad…

  • mr_bee

    Muffed it with the very first one Michael.
    I think you are too young to do these “memory lane” things perhaps. :-)

    The switcher ads are not only widely viewed as some of Apple’s *best*, but the one with Ellen Feiss is considered the best of the lot and Ellen herself was considered “hot” by most geeks of that time.

    In any case, best/worst is highly subjective and you can’t really judge an ad from the past, in the present day as it isn’t really fair.

  • easydone101

    That Lemmings ad is going to give me nightmares tonight.

  • technochick

    For every ad/campaign that someone loves, someone else hates. And vice versa

    And there were other factors that some of those ‘fail’. Like there was no training etc in the early 2000s. So you are asking folks to switch to a way lesser known system to be left in shark infested waters without even a life jacket. THAT was more likely the problem. Not the ads

    That this is no longer the case is the point of these new ads, something many of the flashy photos and jiggles obsessed fanbois don’t seem to get

  • mr_bee

    Actually, I almost didn’t watch any of these because your first choice was so wrong, but now I have …

    I think these are *all* EXCELLENT adverts if you consider them within the context of their times and the things they were trying to focus on or push. I think the problem here is that you just don’t have enough background to know half this stuff (like your comment about who the old guy in the wig is).

    I remember these times like they were yesterday and all of these ads were killer when they came out and struck just the right note in terms of what they were trying to get across.

  • Adam Rosen

    The “Switch” campaign was actually considered fairly successful at the time, though it was replaced with the better “Hello I’m a Mac” series. The Ellen Feiss spot has achieved cult status, because of her delivery. Personally that ad and The Power To Be Your Best are among my all-time favorites!

  • Cassio Magalhaes

    The lemmings one and the high girl one are the worse. The rest is… understandable…

  • Jason Bartlett

    How do you not understand that “the highway of the future has no speed limit” is talking about the internet? In the 90’s it was called “the information super highway.” Duh! It was obvious to me in the first second of the commercial.

  • lwdesign1

    Personally, I loved the Ellen Feiss ad. She was quirky and acted like the partially brain-dead teenager she was–I mean weren’t we all pretty dopey at her age? I thought she was hilarious and very real. It’s a much better excuse to say Windows ate my paper instead of the dog.

  • Lars Pallesen

    You’re including the famous Ellen Feiss switcher ad as one of Apple’s WORST ads of all time?! Seriously? It’s got a whole cult fanbase of its own, and is probably THE most beloved Apple ad since “1984”.

  • Eddie Chu

    Michael I think you miss the whole point. Ads are about messaging, not aesthetics. Of course that stuff will make it look dated and off, but the core stories still translates. The reason why most of these are still Apple style ads is because the underlying message is that people who use Apple products are smart, clever, cool, creative, and/or in-the-know of a great secret. The difference with the “Genius” ads is that, the people who are in-the-know are the people who work for Apple (the “Geniuses”), and the rest of us are dim-witted rubes who need their guidance. That’s the big departure in the current campaign. I’m speaking as a longtime veteran of the advertising, design, and tech industry in NYC. Just my two cents ;)