Apple’s ‘1984’ nabs no. 4 in CBS’s ‘Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials of All Time’

CBS’s special “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commericals” aired tonight from 9-10pm ET/PT in the U.S. Apple’s “1984” was named number 4 on the list. CBS had chosen ten commercials and visitors to their website voted for their favorite spot out of the list. Interestingly, on many lists from advertising and marketing publications, Apple’s “1984” places first as the best commercial ever made, Super Bowl or not. The top three in CBS’s special were: #1: Coke’s “Mean Joe Greene,” #2: Budweiser’s “Zebra,” and #3: McDonald’s “Michael Jordan vs. Larry Bird.”

Apple’s “1984” aired on January 22, 1984 during the Super Bowl. The voice-over intoned:

“Today, we celebrate the first glorious anniversary of the Information Purification Directives. We have created, for the first time in all history, a garden of pure ideology. Where each worker may bloom secure from the pests of contradictory and confusing truths. Our Unification of Thoughts is more powerful a weapon than any fleet or army on earth. We are one people, with one will, one resolve, one cause. Our enemies shall talk themselves to death and we will bury them with their own confusion. We shall prevail!”

At that moment, the shocked masses saw the hammer fly through the screen. Then millions saw these words and heard them spoken aloud:

“On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’”

In June 1999, TV Guide ran a cover story on the “50 Greatest Commercials of All Time.” Apple’s “1984” ad was #1 on the list. TV Guide wrote:

“With a single airing during Super Bowl XVIII, ‘1984’ did more to change the way ads are created and viewed than any commercial in years. It was not the most heartwarming spot nor a big laugh getter, but it turned a little-known brand into a household name and set a new commercial standard for production values and cinematic style. ‘1984’ also raised the financial stakes: Apple spent a then-outlandish sum of $400,000 to produce the ad and $500,000 to air it; 15 years later, a minute of Super Bowl time costs $3.2 million. Lee Clow, then executive creative director of Chiat/Day, recalls that ‘1984’ almost debuted during a lowlier college bowl game. ‘We had to make a last-minute switch to the Super Bowl because Apple wanted to air the ad closer to the date when the product would actually be available for sale,’ he says. ‘Funny how something that simple could have changed a big piece of advertising history.”

Watch the original “1984” spot here.

Related MacDailyNews article:
CBS invites you to vote for “The Super Bowl’s Greatest Commerials” – Apple’s “1984” in the running – January 22, 2004


  1. I can’t say I totally disagree with the voting. The only one I wouldn’t have put in the top 3 was the Jordan vs. Bird commercial. There really wasn’t anything to it.

    The Budweiser “Zebra” commercial was pretty good. Not as impactful or groundbreaking than 1984 but it’s still really good.

    The Coca-Cola “Mean Joe Greene” commercial was and is still a fantastic commercial and deserved to be in the top 3.

    I would have thought that 1984 would have been #1 but when you think about it the 1984 reference is lost on a lot in this generation that actually uses AOL (which was the primary voting vehicle for this show). Many of them just don’t get the meaning. Although my son, who is 12 and has been enamored with Macs since I bought my iBook, understand the commercial and thinks Apple got screwed!

  2. Thanks for giving a way the punch line before I see the show you jerks!

    Next time don’t give it away and note it has spoilers before posting similar stories in the future!!!!!


    Now I gotta clean house…


  3. It’s surprising so many Windows users (must have) voted for it, considering how stupid it should make them feel – seeing themselves as lemmings programmed by the man.

  4. I don’t drink bud and think that the zebra is cool. I don’t use macs and think the apple ad is awesome, and now pathetically ironic, since what little about it that has come true applies 98% of the time to the vast unwashed masses of wintel users.

  5. I think it was rigged. The top 3 were all sports related. Apple came in 4th. Which, in my book, means it probably got the most votes of all of them. I knew the Mean Joe Greene commercial would win, even though it shouldn’t have been in the list, since it wasn’t a real Super Bowl commercial. It debuted during the season, not at the Super Bowl.

  6. The ranking of the ads in this vote kind of sums up the taste and sophistication of the people who voted. ;o)

    I’m sure the whole point of the Apple ad went easily over the heads of the majority of Joe Sixpacks who likely comprised the bulk of the respondents.

    Give them their favorite sports heros talking to each other any day over a well thought out, creative piece that warns us of what happens when critical thought is replaced with mindless conformity, and how a few with vision can make a difference.

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