Apple to Dish Up Saucy New Campaign

By Thomas R. King, Staff Reporter
The Wall Street Journal

October 3, 1990

Few advertisers have a better knack for unabashed hype than Apple Computer. Back in 1984, its splashy Super Bowl commercial made advertising history. Dubbed "1984," the offbeat spot cost a fortune to film, aired only once and became one of the most talked-about TV ads of the 1980s.

That was followed a year later by "Lemmings," an ad that won as much notoriety, but for the wrong reasons -- it tried to woo customers of IBM by likening them to a line of foolish suits jumping off a cliff. Madison Avenue has made a pastime ever since of talking up Apple's hits and misses.

So what's Apple up to now?

This month the computer maker will likely raise eyebrows along Madison Avenue once again with a $25 million, three-month blitz in the U.S. anchored by a new, high-concept spot called "Industrial Revelation." It is set in a college class, as Macintosh computers on students' desks flash furiously in sync with a professor's ranting.

"The walls have come down! Opportunity has gone up!" the professor preaches, reciting copy that cashes in on the changes in Eastern Europe. "And the only limits will be the size of your ideas and the degree of your dedication!" The classroom shots are interspersed with quick shots of a loud Apple plant where new computers are being assembled. The spot ends with the company's preferred catch phrase of late: "The power to be your best."

The new campaign, created by the Los Angeles office of Omnicom Group's BBDO agency, aims to revitalize the business market for the Macintosh while promoting three new models that carry drastically lower prices than its other models. Ads will begin appearing Oct. 13.

The onslaught marks the company's most aggressive marketing effort in recent years, and it aims to dispel Apple's image as a maker of computers that work just for desktop publishing. That image, oddly, was one that Apple fervently embraced only a couple of years ago as a way into the business market.

But now it will spend a bundle to "undo" its earlier success: The $25 million binge compares with just $35 million that Apple spent on ads for all of last year.

One of the new spots dares to dabble in a bit of narcissism. In "Trade Secrets," a meeting of executives at a big consumer-products company is interrupted by a phone call from "Apple's ad agency" -- "Batton Barton Durstine & Osborne," BBDO's old name. The agency asks if it can feature the company -- which has used the Macintosh with great success -- in a spot for the computer.

"No. . . . We can't do it," a senior executive says, as two others look disappointed. "Why would we go on national TV and tell our competition exactly how" the Macintosh has helped, he says, then blames the rejection on the legal department. "I'm sorry," he tells the ad agency, "we'd like to help, but our lawyers just won't let us."

Steve Hayden, chairman of BBDO's Los Angeles and San Francisco operation, says that spot and others in the campaign are based on true stories. "We'd find these middle managers who were just effusive about Macintoshes." But then a boss would come in, he says, and quash the idea of singing Mac's praises on television.

"We want people to at least reconsider the Apple proposition," Mr. Hayden says. "You try to shake up people's thinking a bit. . . . We want to raise the question in their minds and get them to take a closer look at the next print ad they come across."

The TV ads will run frequently through the fourth quarter, with many airing in Sunday morning news programs. Cable networks will be used extensively to promote a spot tailored to the education market. And print advertising, for the first time, will include prices -- front and center.

Bob Puette, president of Apple's U.S. arm, says he decided to make price paramount in the print ads because many customers don't realize just how low the prices are. "This should heighten the awareness that we have a new Macintosh family that anyone can afford," he says.

The new spots clearly aren't as wacky as those cranked out by Chiat/Day, the funky Los Angeles shop that had the account in the early 1980s and came up with the "1984" and "Lemmings" spots. But the ads do have an element of humor and, like early Apple spots, they take veiled jabs at IBM.

In one ad, a cop and a police detective watch a security video of two thugs stealing hardware from a computer center. The burglars, picky as they are, rip off only Apples, leaving untouched a group of others that bear a strong resemblance to IBM's models. "Why would they only take one kind of computer and leave the rest behind?" the cop asks. "It's obvious -- they only took the most expensive computers," the detective says.

No, the cop responds: "They left the expensive computers."

Copyright Dow Jones & Company Inc