Saturday, 20 April 2024

iConformity: Unraveling the Apple Advert that Captivated and Convinced America

iConformity: Unraveling the Apple Advert that Captivated and Convinced America
Sunday, 21 January 2024 14:46

The Apple Advert that Brainwashed America: Ridley Scott's Dystopian Masterstroke in 1984

In the annals of advertising history, there exists a singular moment when Ridley Scott, the visionary director of iconic films like "Alien" and "Blade Runner," found himself bewildered by an unexpected proposal. In 1983, Apple, the burgeoning tech giant, approached Scott to helm an advertisement for their upcoming computer release. Scott, assuming a connection to the Beatles, was swiftly corrected by Chiat/Day, Apple's PR firm, introducing him to the enigmatic Steve Jobs.

Unveiling a script that seemed to dance with the shadows of George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four," Scott embarked on a journey to bring Apple's vision to life. However, as he delved into the narrative, a peculiar realization struck him – there was no explicit mention of the product itself. In a paradoxical twist, the advertisement became a form of art, a narrative devoid of product details but dripping with a mysterious allure.

The climax of this creative endeavor unfolded during the 1984 Super Bowl, when a 60-second commercial directed by Scott seized the nation's attention. Depicting a dystopian world of somber, grey-clad workers in a vast hall, the advertisement emanated an aura of desolation, cleverly cast with extras from Britain's skinhead community. The enigmatic Big Brother spoke, extolling the virtues of Information Purification and the supremacy of unified thoughts.

In the end, the Apple Mac was not explicitly revealed or described. Instead, the ad became a mesmerizing spectacle, leaving viewers captivated by the allure of a revolutionary, liberating device. Scott's masterful realization of the script turned advertising into an art form, and the Apple ad, despite its unconventional approach, emerged as a devastatingly effective cultural phenomenon. The 1984 Super Bowl commercial marked a pivotal moment when an advertisement transcended the conventional, sparking conversations and forever altering the landscape of marketing and public perception.

Behind the Hammer: Deconstructing the Apple Advert's Bold Message and the Macintosh Reality

A yawn echoes through the critique hall, dismissing the Apple advertisement as mere communist gibberish. Yet, salvation arrives in an unexpected form—a commotion at the back. A striking young woman, clad in orange shorts and a white singlet, sprints towards the screen, skillfully evading the futuristic lackeys in pursuit. This captivating figure is Anya Major, a model and discus-throwing athlete, later to become Elton John's Nikita. Major's journey to the role involved a casting call in London's Hyde Park, where potential candidates struggled to wield sledgehammers with precision. Major's mastery of torque, demonstrated by her adept control of the sledgehammer, earned her the coveted role.

In the completed ad, Major swings the sledgehammer, shattering the screen and ending Big Brother's broadcast, setting the stage for the final triumphant message. The voiceover declares, “On January 24, Apple Computer will introduce the Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Across America, millions of TV screens briefly go blank, only to reveal the ubiquitous Apple logo. The promise? The Apple Mac would liberate the masses from a totalitarian surveillance state, all for the price of $2,495 (£1,960.16), equivalent to around $7,000 (£5,500) today.

Despite the iconic ad and the revolutionary promise, the Apple Mac faced a harsh reality. Apple CEO Steve Sculley insisted on pricing the Macintosh $500 higher than co-founder Steve Jobs desired, factoring in advertising costs, including the iconic Ridley Scott ad. However, the Macintosh proved a disappointment. Criticized for being sluggish and underpowered, with a small monitor, blocky graphics, a meager 128K of memory, and no internal hard drive, it earned the unflattering moniker "beige toaster." While 70,000 units sold by April 1984, sales plummeted to 10,000 a month by year-end, plunging Apple into a crisis that culminated in Jobs' ousting from the company he helped create. The saga of the Apple Macintosh, once a symbol of liberation, became a cautionary tale of marketing triumphs and technological pitfalls.

Steve Jobs: A Tale of Liberation and Dystopia in the Digital Age

The narrative of Steve Jobs did not conclude with the lackluster reception of the Apple Mac. In 1997, Jobs orchestrated a boardroom coup, reclaiming the helm as Apple's chief executive. This second act in Jobs' career birthed iconic products, notably the iPod (launched in 1997) and the revolutionary iPhone (2007). Apple's 1997 TV ads, featuring historical luminaries like Gandhi and Einstein, conveyed a powerful message—those who "Think Different," including Jobs himself, were modern liberators. The campaign framed Jobs as the latest in a lineage of figures emancipating humanity from tangible and mental constraints.

However, as we reflect on Ridley Scott's Apple Mac ad four decades later, the notion of human liberation it once promised appears, in hindsight, almost laughable. The utopia envisioned by the Super Bowl ad and the liberating world foretold by the Think Different campaign have given way to a conformist dystopia, surpassing even the nightmarish scenarios of Ridley Scott's cinematic masterpieces.

While the fall of the Berlin Wall marked the end of Soviet bloc Big Brothers, our present reality, dominated by digital surveillance and relentless data mining, suggests a parallel to, if not the full extent of, Orwell's dystopian nightmare. The rulers of our age are not Big Brother but tech titans—Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and current Apple CEO Tim Cook. The twist lies in their methods; unlike Big Brother's crude tactics, these tech giants employ subtler strategies to ensure compliance.

Ingeniously, they have turned the tables, making us yearn for our own subjugation by inundating us with irresistible commodities. This is the argument posited by Korean-German philosopher Byung-Chul Han in his book "Psychopolitics," differentiating between 20th-century totalitarian control and its 21st-century counterpart. In this contemporary era, desire becomes the conduit for control, challenging our autonomy in ways more insidious than ever envisioned by the dystopian visions of the past.

Byung-Chul Han's Revelation: From Forced Confessions to Voluntary Disclosure in the Age of Smartphones

In a world where confession by force has given way to the era of voluntary disclosure, philosopher Byung-Chul Han presents a stark reality: smartphones, not torture chambers, have become the new instruments of control. While torture chambers persist in the shadows, the essence of mass control has transcended the crude tactics of historical Big Brothers like Hitler, Mao, and Stalin. Han contends that contemporary control operates through subtler, more insidious means.

Meanwhile, Ridley Scott, the cinematic maestro behind the iconic Apple Mac ad, finds himself entwined in a profitable collaboration with Apple. His production company, Scott Free, inked a first-look deal with Apple TV+ in 2020, and his Napoleon film became an Apple project. Yet, Scott reveals a nuanced perspective on Apple's cultural impact. In a recent conversation with The Hollywood Reporter, Scott expresses concern about the changing landscape of advertising, particularly in the digital age.

Scott acknowledges the dual nature of Apple as both genius and adversary. Holding up his iPhone, he underscores the device's brilliance while highlighting its potential as an enemy. His misgivings revolve around the intrusive nature of modern advertising, breaking into the reading experience as disruptive distractions. The fragmentation of content into numerous snippets poses a challenge to the effectiveness of such advertising strategies. Scott questions whether this approach is truly impactful.

However, beyond the discussion of advertising woes, Scott delves into a more profound realization. As a venerable octogenarian director, he recognizes the truth about Apple—it embodies both genius and, for those earnest about liberation from technological control, the role of an adversary. In an era where smartphones wield immense influence, the philosophical reflections of Han and the cultural insights of Scott converge, prompting a contemplative examination of the balance between technological innovation and the quest for true liberation.

In the complex tapestry of technological evolution and societal dynamics, the juxtaposition of Byung-Chul Han's insights and Ridley Scott's reflections paints a nuanced portrait of our contemporary landscape. Han's observation that smartphones have supplanted torture chambers as tools of voluntary disclosure unveils a profound shift in the mechanisms of control. The ghosts of historical Big Brothers linger, but the subtlety and pervasiveness of modern methods demand a recalibration of our understanding.

Ridley Scott's ambivalence towards Apple, the very company he collaborated with to craft iconic narratives, resonates with a broader societal sentiment. The genius of technological innovation, encapsulated in devices like the iPhone, coexists with a growing awareness of the potential perils. Scott's concern about the intrusive nature of advertising on digital platforms reflects a larger discourse on the impact of technology on our daily lives.

As we navigate an era where liberation and control intertwine in intricate ways, the concluding chord underscores a delicate balance. The dichotomy of Apple as both genius and adversary encapsulates the multifaceted nature of our relationship with technology. In this age of constant connectivity, the quest for genuine liberation demands a critical examination of the tools we embrace. The narrative weaves through philosophy, cinema, and the digital realm, leaving us with a contemplative invitation to ponder the true cost and consequences of our technological journey.


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