Today in Apple history: Apple’s ‘Get a Mac’ campaign comes to an end

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Mac vs. PC
This was one of the best ad campaigns in Apple history.
Photo: Apple

May 21: Today in Apple history: Apple's Get a Mac ad campaign comes to an end May 21, 2010: Apple quietly ends its award-winning “Get a Mac” ad campaign. Debuting in 2006, the ads starred actor Justin Long as the cool, youthful Mac. Comedian John Hodgman portrayed the stuffy, awkward PC.

Alongside the “Think Different” and iPod “Silhouette” campaigns, “Get a Mac” will become one of the most fondly remembered extended advertising blitzes in Apple history.

‘I’m a Mac … and I’m a PC’

The original “Get a Mac” ads arrived around the time Apple switched Macs from PowerPC to Intel processors. Apple CEO Steve Jobs wanted a marketing campaign that highlighted the differences between Macs and PCs. In particular, he wanted ads that showed why Apple computers kicked their competitors to the curb.

For a long time, the TBWA Media Arts Lab ad creatives working on the project struggled to come up with just the right approach.

In an oral history of the ads for the website Campaign, creative directors Eric Grunbaum and Scott Trattner recalled the origin of the “Get a Mac” spots. The breakthrough came after six months of unsuccessful pitches to Jobs.

“I was surfing with Scott somewhere in Malibu,” Grunbaum said, “and we were discussing our frustration with coming up with an idea, and I said to him, ‘You know, it’s almost like we have to get so basic. It’s like, we need a Mac and a PC sitting on a white site, and we need to say, ‘This is a Mac. It’s good at A, B and C. And this is a PC, and it’s good at D, E and F.'”

“I then remember saying to [associate creative director Barton Corley], ‘What if we embody the two characters?'” Trattner said. “‘One guy could say, “I’m a Mac.” One guy could say, “I’m a PC.” The Mac could be on roller skates circling the PC saying how fast he is.’ Barton just took it and really ran.”

The end of Apple’s ‘Get a Mac’ ad campaign

The U.S. ads, which you can watch below, ran for the next few years, with 66 television spots in total. The campaign also spread to other markets, with alternate actors playing the Mac and PC roles. (For example, David Mitchell and Robert Webb played the characters in the U.K. version.) All 66 American ads were directed by Junebug helmer Phil Morrison.

Apple aired the last “Get a Mac” TV ad in October 2009, marking the beginning of the end for the campaign. However, the clever marketing continued on Apple’s website. On May 21, 2010, Apple finally replaced its “Get a Mac” page with a “Why You’ll Love a Mac” page.

Meanwhile, on television, Cupertino’s commercials focused more on iPhones than on Macs, showing a transition in the company’s priorities.

What is your favorite Apple ad campaign of all time? Let us know in the comments below.

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