Apple concocts homage to '1984'

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Apple Computer wants to pay tribute to its most famous ad, "1984," during the 2004 Super Bowl, 20 years after the landmark spot ran on broadcast TV for the first and last time.

The computer maker is in talks with its long-term ad agency, Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day about finding a way to mark the 20th anniversary of the Macintosh launch, according to an executive close to the situation.

"It could be an interesting thing to do," said the executive, particularly given the success Apple has had in recent months with its stylish iPod digital music player and its iTunes Music Store, which has transformed the multibillion-dollar music business. "Apple is on a roll again," the executive said, adding that internally Apple executives are predicting the company will sell out its iPod inventory this holiday season.

A second agency executive confirmed internal discussions with Apple about developing a 20th anniversary spot that would be reminiscent of "1984."

It is not certain how the agency would reprise the historic spot, although concerns about the cost of paying for a Super Bowl spot had Apple's top brass considering re-running the original spot to avoid incurring any production expenses.

no purchase yet

Apple and TBWA did not return calls for comment.

Apple has not yet purchased a national spot on the 2004 Super Bowl. However, the second executive said Apple is seriously considering purchasing time, and that inventory is still available in all four quarters. According to Viacom's CBS, the Super Bowl is about 85% sold. It is also possible Apple may opt to do a tribute to the ad outside of the Super Bowl if the cost of a Super Bowl spot is deemed too high.

Apple is expected to appear during the Super Bowl with a spot purchased by Pepsi-Cola North America to kick off a promotion giving away 100 million digital songs at the iTunes Music Store. Winning codes will be in one of three bottles of Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Sierra Mist. That ad is being developed by Pepsi agency, Omnicom's BBDO, New York.

"1984" begins with the sound of footsteps as bald individuals looking like prisoners are marched into a hall. An Orwellian Big Brother character on a large screen drones on with Marxist jingo until an athletic-looking woman pursued by guards sprints in and hurls a sledgehammer into the screen. A written message then appears: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like `1984."'

If Apple decides to undertake the effort, the project would carry certain risks. For one, the spot is famous in the marketing and advertising community, but many younger viewers Apple now wants to reach were not born when "1984" ran the first time.

"It's a daunting task," said David Morrison, president, Twentysomething, a consulting, research and trend-forecasting firm. "The deck is largely stacked against it," he said, especially if Apple fails to garner enough publicity prior to the new spot to educate the target audience about the history of "1984," by, for example coaxing TV news reporters to discuss and air the spot.

The `1984' story

But the audience is likely to have viewers who do remember the spot. This year the median age of the 88 million Super Bowl viewers was 39.9, down from 41 in 2002, but up slightly from the 2001's 39.7, according to interpretation of Nielsen data by Omnicom's OMD. Of the 2003 audience, 8% were aged 12 to 17; 9% 18-24; 16% 25-34 and 59% 35 and over.

Apple's "1984" first appeared during Super Bowl XVIII, and cost between $400,000 and $600,000 to produce, according to reports at the time, and the price for the time in the game's fourth quarter was $1 million. According to the book, "Chiat/Day: The First Twenty Years," agency creatives tricked Apple executives into allowing director Ridley Scott to shoot the spot by saying he would only agree to do a spot Apple executives wanted for the Lisa computer if he was allowed to shoot "1984." The executives were also told it wouldn't "be too much more money." When the spot was shown to Apple's board, they disliked it so much they ordered Chiat/Day to sell its Super Bowl slots. But the extent of the agency's efforts to do so remains debatable. The agency told Apple that there were no last-minute takers, and the ad ran.

The spot ranked twelfth on Advertising Age's top spots of the 20th century, and won more than 30 awards, including the Grand Prix at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes.

contributing: richard linnett

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