Friday, February 5, 2016

Apple's 1984 Super Bowl Commercial - A Marketing Marvel

Each year, millions of Americans spend their weekends watching football games. Some go to stadiums, where they can experience it first-hand, while many others watch the games on television, from the comfort of their own homes. No matter how they're watching the game, the National Football League (NFL) is making plenty of money from their viewership. Last year alone, the NFL's 34 teams brought in a total of over $7 billion in revenue. Of that total, hundred of millions of dollars came from one game in particular: the Super Bowl. This revenue comes from a combination of ticket sales, merchandise sales, and, most of all, advertisements. Michael Hiltzik discusses, in his L.A. Times article, the Super Bowl and how its advertising goals have changed over time.

Several estimates claim that, depending on several factors, the Super Bowl's host city can gain up to $100 million in extra revenue during the week of the big game. Between money spent on hotels/motels/Airbnb rentals, money spent on tourist attractions, and increased spending at restaurants and other such establishments, the Super Bowl provides a huge amount of income for local businesses. Yet, the largest portion of Super Bowl income has to do with advertisements by big-name companies like Apple and Coca-Cola. At the 1984 Super Bowl, Apple Inc. aired a commercial that was so successful that it set an expectation for all future Super Bowl commercials.

Apple's commercial was a pull-out-the-stops production, directed by Ridley Scott (who had previously directed "Alien" and "Blade Runner") and starring Anya Major, a British actress and discus-thrower. The commercial, which was championed by Steve Jobs, made Apple's CEO, John Scully, doubtful, yet eventually was approved and made its way to the television screen. The commercial itself was greatly influenced by George Orwell's novel, 1984, which depicts a dystopian society. The commercial concludes with Major's disruption of Big Brother's Stalin-like speech and announces: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" This appeal to nationalism and patriotism called to many Americans and the commercial came to be known as one of the most successful of all time. You can watch the full commercial here.

Given the millions of people that watch football each year, it makes sense that companies would want to take advantage of the large audience to advertise their products and services. Since the NFL knows how much each time block is worth, they charge a high price to those who want to advertise during the game. Everyone benefits from this relationship: advertising provides companies with a larger consumer base, which creates an opportunity for more sales and greater revenue, and the NFL makes money selling airtime to advertisers. The Super Bowl especially creates this opportunity, as over 100 million people watch the game, many of whom aren't even football fans.

The aforementioned 1984 Apple commercial is considered by many to have been the trigger that got many people interested in the Super Bowl for more than just football. When the game is half over, the Super Bowl has its famous half-time show, in which a popular musician or other artist puts on a performance while the players take a short break and regroup. Even more popular to viewers are the long-awaited Super Bowl commercials, which are expected every year to surpass Apple's amazing 1984 commercial, and yet never quite succeed. In fact, there are viewers that don't care about the game at all, but instead watch it in order to experience the game's half-time.

While no company has yet to produce a commercial with nearly as much fame and success as Apple's 1984 commercial, viewers still watch the Super Bowl every year, in hopes that the half-time commercials will amaze and inspire as they did before. Advertising during the Super Bowl has become a marketing standard, a sign of a successful business. Even though IBM's personal computers eventually took over a large portion of the home and office markets, Apple's success in business is nothing to be scoffed at either. Maybe this year's commercials will be able to emulate Apple's marketing success? There's only one way to find out.

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