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The Apple Super Bowl commercial that flopped

Yoni Heisler, @edibleapple
February 1, 2014
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Most people are likely familiar with Apple's famous "1984" ad, largely upheld as one of the best commercials of all time. But much more obscure is Apple's follow up commercial for the 1985 Super Bowl, an advert dubbed "Lemmings."

Apple's "Lemmings" ad touted Macintosh Office, a product primed to be a modern day business computing environment comprised of networked Macs, a file server, and a networked laser printer. Much like the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" purported to show that folks deciding to stay with IBM (or any PC variant) were nothing more than lemmings blindly following one another off of a cliff.

And though the "Lemmings" ad more or less carried the same tone as "1984", the ad was largely considered an absolute flop.

Network World reports:

Reportedly inspired by the myth that lemmings committed mass suicide by accidentally walking off cliffs during migration, the ad showed blindfolded businessmen walking single file off of cliffs in a dystopian wasteland, the implicit result of a world ruined by enterprise PCs that didn't run Macintosh. Whereas the 1984 ad was praised for its allusion to the dystopian future laid out in Orwell's legendary novel, the Lemmings ad was denounced for creating an overly bleak, suicidal scenario created specifically as a knock against Apple's competitors.

Compounding matters was that the advertised product -- Macintosh Office -- never really shipped as originally envisioned. Indeed, the file server wasn't even ready for release until 1987.

Wired adds:

The product simply did not exist. And if you write a check with your advertising that your product can't cash, you will - I assure you - bite the karmic weenie," Steve Hayden, the co-creator of the 1984 ad and the copywriter for Lemmings, said last week during an anniversary bash for the Macintosh. "We bit it big time."

It would be a good 14 years before Apple would again run a Super Bowl ad, a Y2K themed ad featuring HAL.

To say it's sleep inducing might be an understatement.

So with the Super Bowl tomorrow and the Mac recently having celebrated its 30th birthday, might we see Apple get back into the Super Bowl ad game once more? In any other year, "no" would be a safe bet, but given that Apple actually acknowledged the Mac's 30th birthday in a major way, and given the following tweet from longtime Apple ad man Lee Clow, perhaps Apple will have a surprise in store for us come Sunday.

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