World’s best ads ever #23: Apple wins over a generation with ‘Get a Mac’
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite commercials of all time. Top creatives from the World Creative Rankings and The Drum’s Judges’ Club then ranked the ads. Now, we bring you the definitive 100 best TV and video ads of all time.
‘Get a Mac’ is a golden egg: a single-idea campaign with hundreds of possible instantiations, which ran globally for three years, becoming a cultural touchstone and having a tangible impact on sales and revenue.
From Apple’s long-time agency TBWA, the campaign’s tenure landed right in the heyday of Steve Jobs mania, with ads dropping between 2006 and 2009. The same interval saw the launch of both the iPhone and the App Store, but ‘Get a Mac’ focused on the decades-old battle between Apple Macs and Windows PCs.
The campaign answered a brief from Jobs himself. It solidified for a generation Apple’s long-term positioning ambition: a dichotomy between Mac and Windows PCs, with the former cast as more fashionable, youthful, reliable, safer and smarter. Across more than 60 North American TV spots – they reportedly shot over 300 – the differences between the two are personified by legendary humorist John Hodgman (dour, boring PC) and actor Justin Long (young, airy Mac).
Sometimes they’re joined by guests such as supermodel Gisele Bundchen, but the most effective ads stick with the classic two-men-one-shot formula. ‘Viruses’ falls into this camp: PC contracts a virus; Mac, unable to catch it, helps PC wipe his nose; the latter crashes out.
‘Viruses’ was one of many ads that hammered home the idea that Macs contract fewer viruses. From a perception point of view, this line of attack has been effective. Still today, a Google search of ‘Apple viruses’ yields top results almost exclusively focused on whether Macs can contract viruses (which, of course, they can), rather than how to avoid them.
Played out against a plain white background, ‘Get a Mac’ refines both the messaging and the approach of its predecessor, the ‘Switch’ campaign. With Apple’s penchant for up-and-coming directors, the US TV ads were helmed by then up-and-coming Academy Award nominee (for 2005’s Junebug) Phil Morrison, with a score from Devo frontman, iconic movie composer and Wes Anderson regular, Mark Mothersbaugh.
Scores of online-only ads followed the TV spots, and an international campaign saw adaptations and recastings, including with Peepshow duo Mitchell and Webb in the UK.
Culturally and commercially, the campaign’s success is a thing of legend: a 39% uptick in Mac sales in 2006 alone, and deep cultural contagion. Real success, though, is in the minds of your enemies: while Apple moved on a while ago, the PC community is still clapping back a decade later.