The NFL's season finale has been on TV since 1967, but it was a 1984 Apple Computer ad (known as "1984") that first made people stop their Super Bowl snacking and take notice of the advertising.
"I'm not sure anyone will ever achieve what '1984' achieved by becoming the talk of the nation," says Bob Garfield, who covers Super Bowl advertising for Advertising Age magazine.
Apple's innovative ad was based on George Orwell's book, "1984," and was heavily promoted before the game. Directed by Ridley Scott ("Alien," "Blade Runner"), the ad depicted a bellicose tyrant ranting via telescreen at a room full of drones, explains Mr. Garfield. Suddenly, a girl in shorts runs down the aisle and throws a hammer at the view screen, ending the tyranny. The voice-over says, "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh, and you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.' "
IBM was being likened to Big Brother, and the new Mac was the antidote, according to Garfield. Interestingly, Apple's follow-up ad in 1985 was a dud. But the original was enough to set the Super Bowl up to become the No. 1 advertising event of the year.
Another favorite of Garfield's is an inexpensive, but simple ad from Master Lock that ran in various forms for 21 years. A padlock is shot by a rifle and stays latched. "It remains one of the most vivid, powerful brand images in advertising history," he writes in the Super Bowl edition of NFL Insider magazine, the program for Sunday's game.
At this year's Super Bowl, credit-card and potato-chip ads will be joined by at least a dozen others from dotcoms, a group known for using edgy humor to grab viewer attention. The question is, will any of them beable to top "1984"?
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