May 21, 2010: Apple quietly ends its long-running, award-winning “Get a Mac” marketing 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.
Editor’s note: We originally published this illustrated history of the iPod to celebrate the device’s 10th anniversary on Oct. 22, 2011 (and updated it a decade later). We republished it on May 10, 2022, when Apple finally pulled the plug on the iPod.
The iPod grew out of Steve Jobs’ digital hub strategy. Life was going digital. People were plugging all kinds of devices into their computers: digital cameras, camcorders, MP3 players.
The computer was the central device, the “digital hub,” that could be used to edit photos and movies or manage a large music library. Jobs tasked Apple’s programmers with making software for editing photos, movies and managing digital music. While they were doing this, they discovered that all the early MP3 players were horrible. Jobs asked his top hardware guy, Jon Rubinstein, to see if Apple could do better.
April 18, 1996: Apple unveils a massive $15 million promotional tie-in for the Mission: Impossible movie starring Tom Cruise.
Designed to promote the PowerBook, which Cruise uses in the spy flick, the marketing campaign comes at a particularly bad time. Attempting to climb back into the black after reporting its largest quarterly loss ever, Apple is in the middle of trying to perform its very own impossible mission. And that’s just the start of the problems.
January 20, 1985: Apple attempts to build on the triumph of the previous year’s “1984” Macintosh commercial with another Super Bowl ad.
Called “Lemmings,” the ad for a new business platform called Macintosh Office depicts blindfolded executives marching to their doom. The widely reviled ad will go down in history as one of Apple’s biggest stinkers.
January 17, 1984: A week before its famous airing during Super Bowl XVIII, Apple’s iconic “1984” ad debuts as a trailer in movie theaters.
To hype its revolutionary new Macintosh computer, Apple buys several months of promotion from theatrical ad distributor ScreenVision. Cupertino’s sci-fi-tinged “1984” spot — which depicts a sledgehammer-wielding freedom fighter taking on a Big Brother figure supposed to represent IBM — gets such a favorable audience reaction that some theater owners continue to roll the ad after Apple’s contract ends.
November 8, 1984: When initial Mac sales prove disappointing, Apple CEO John Sculley dreams up the “Test Drive a Macintosh” campaign to encourage people to give the revolutionary new computer a chance.
The promotional strategy advises people in possession of a credit card to drop into their local retailer and “borrow” a Macintosh for 24 hours. The idea is that, by the time potential customers need to return the Mac, they will have built up a bond with it and realized they can’t live without one.
While 200,000 would-be Apple customers take advantage of the offer, Apple dealers absolutely hate it.