Our 28 favorite Apple commercials

Any discussion about Super Bowl commercials always leads to Apple. In this slideshow, one Macworld editor takes a look at his favorite Apple ads.

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Sunday is Super Bowl Sunday, and any discussion about Super Bowl commercials always leads to Apple—specifically, Apple’s minute-long 1984 ad.

Apple has a long history of commercials. This slideshow lists my 28 favorite Apple ads. Click on the Watch this ad link to open a separate Web page with video.

(If you want even more Apple ads, Macworld’s Philip Michaels in 2009 presented his list of the greatest and worst Apple commercials that you can check out. And Every Apple TV Ad on YouTube has a huge list—a list that’s more complete that Apple’s YouTube channel.)

Talk about your favorite Mac ads by posting in the comments section.

Editor’s note: This an update to a slideshow that originally posted on February 2, 2013.

apple your verse anthem
Your Verse Anthem

This is one of Apple’s most powerful commercials. The montage works perfectly with the music, but what makes this commercial effective is the voiceover by Robin Williams, a speech taken from the 1989 film Dead Poets Society. I’ve probably watched this ad a few hundred times and I admire its artistry.

I like the 90-second version, but Apple also produced two 30-second versions called Sound verse and Light verse.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

WWDC 2009

This Get a Mac ad actually opened the keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in 2009. It never hit the airwaves. It features PC (John Hodgman) attempting to greet the developers, but eventually, his true character comes through.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Lose yourself

I was at the 2005 Apple iPod event when this ad was revealed. Of all the iPod silhouette ads, this one’s my favorite. But Apple quickly pulled the ad. A few weeks later, shoe company Lugz filed suit against Apple, claiming that the Eminem silhouette ad was a copy of its own ad that featured Funkmaster Flex.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

1984

A lot has been said about 1984, and chances are you’ve heard or read about it. But former Chiat/Day creative director Steve Hayden talked about the behind-the-scenes history and provided some interesting tidbits about the making of the ad.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Misunderstood Apple commercial
Misunderstood

This commercial debuted during the 2013 holiday season. It perfectly combines the sentiment of the season with subtle product promotion. Never mind the fact that the guy in the commercial is shooting his videos vertically but the final video he produces ends up in a proper horizontal orientation. It's a Christmas miracle!

Watch this ad (YouTube)

the song apple ad
The Song

Apple has done a very good job with its holiday ads in recent years. I’ve already mentioned Misunderstood and I’ll get to another holiday commercial later in this slideshow. Another favorite of mine is The Song.

While you probably are familiar with this ad, you may not know that Apple did a version of this ad for China called The Old Record. It tugs at your heart strings just as the American version does.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Lemmings

This commercial aired during the 1985 Super Bowl. Clearly, Apple was hoping lightning would strike twice with this ad, but the effort falls flat. It’s often included in lists of worst Apple commercials, but I like it because it’s so disturbing.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Security (Japanese)

Apple Japan had its own Get a Mac ads (so did Apple UK). Though the Japanese ads are very similar to the American Get a Mac ads, I find them charming in their own way. I don’t speak Japanese, and some very helpful people on the Web have provided translation subtitles to the Japanese ads, but I prefer to watch them without the subtitles.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Siri and John Malkovich

Apple hopes people see this ad and learn more about Siri’s capabilities. I see this ad and learn that John Malkovich loves linguica.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Who is Newton?

There are some elements of this ad that you've seen in iPad and iPhone ads—mainly, the quick flashes of tasks being performed on the device. And there are plenty of other elements that Apple will never put in an ad again, such as real, everyday people, like Al and Ellen Newton (well, at least I think they’re real and not professional actors) or actors playing Sir Isaac Newton.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Big and small

The odd couple formula is tried and true in TV land, and Apple turned to it for this commercial in 2002 to promote the 12-inch (Yao Ming) and 17-inch PowerBooks (Vern Troyer).

This wasn't the first Apple commercial with a tall basketball player.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Sad song (long version)

The long version of this ad, featuring a country song sung by PC (John Hodgman), was on Apple’s Website. The reaction of Mac (Justin Long) is the exact same reaction I have when I hear songs about the greatness of the Mac or the horrors of Windows—get me outta there. But John Hodgman cannot be denied.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

George Clinton

One constant in Apple’s ads: the “cool” factor. Is there anyone on this Earth cooler than George Clinton? When George is making his P-Funk, he’s making it on a Mac. Sweet.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Cheese

This iPhone 5 ad highlights the camera’s Panorama feature. It’s a cute commercial, but anyone who’s worked with elementary school kids knows that you can never gets a groups of kids this large to stand still long enough to say, “cheeeeeeeeee—huff—eeeeese!”

Watch ths ad (YouTube)

Toasted bunny

Intel fab technicians called the outfits they had to wear “bunny” suits. In 1997, Intel started to use BunnyPeople in its ads. This is one of those ads that I didn’t really care for when it first aired, but looking back it has new meaning. Especially when you see the ad that’s next on my list.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Intel transition

Attendees at the 2006 Macworld Expo keynote seemed to like this ad, but reports at the time said that Intel wasn’t too pleased. Fans of The Postal Service didn’t like the ad either, saying it was a rip off of the video for “Such Great Heights.”

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Watch the skies

It’s baffling to think that Apple thought a wireless router deserved a commercial. Instead of demonstrating what it does, the ad focuses on the AirPort Base Station’s UFO-like shape. I do applaud the effort, however, and the result was a quirky little commercial.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

DJ Qbert

I don’t find the Switch commercials interesting, but of all the Switch commercials, I like this one featuring DJ Qbert, because he’s a San Francisco native (I’m a SF resident). I’m partial to seeing the local boys do well. The Tony Hawk ad is a bit more entertaining, thanks to some skateboarding footage. (Obligatory Ellen Feiss mention.)

Watch this ad (YouTube)

prince oseph hader apple ad
Prince Oseph

Celebrity appearances are powerful and consumers find them persuasive, but they don’t do anything for me. And since Apple’s commercials over the past year or so prominently feature celebrities, they don’t strike a chord (actually, I can say that most Apple commercials in general over the past two years don’t really stand out to me).

There are a few exceptions, including this ad that features actor Bill Hader using the hands-free Hey Siri command to check his email while eating a giant hoagie. Hader is perfectly cast in this role. Good for a few laughs.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Labor day

During the 2012 Summer Olympics, Apple introduced a series of Genius ads that were immediately panned by critics and Apple fans. The ads were cheesy, uninspired, and very similar to lots of PC ads. They were horrible.

I do find the Labor Day ad amusing, though. The commercial confirms what I always suspected—like professional athletes, Apple Geniuses wear their uniforms at all times, even when asleep. And even though he's at home, this Genius absolutely has to put on (offscreen) his Apple badge before answering the door.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Homemaker

It’s easy to make fun of old ads, because they often showcase outdated social norms. Here, we have Dick Cavett talking to a woman about how the computer is great for those “pesky household chores.” But the woman is more interested in gold futures and her “small steel mill,” which Cavett finds surprising. And how about that red apple on the desk?

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Hal

This commercial starring the computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey aired during the 1999 Super Bowl. At the time, the media started to latch on to the Y2K bug story and the impending doom it would cause. Apple said that the Y2K bug didn’t affect Macs—and as it turns out, it didn’t really affect PCs, either.

Coincidentally, 2001: A Space Odyssey comes to mind in the next Apple ad in this slideshow…

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Waltz

Set to “On the Beautiful Blue Danube,” (which is prominently used in 2001: A Space Odyssey) Apple’s latest iPhone ad promotes the availability of the iPhone on two carriers. The commercial features actions choreographed to the music on a pair of iPhones, presumably one iPhone is using AT&T, and the other using Verizon. The ad is not as mesmerizing as the outer space scenes in 2001, but the music still makes the commercial fun to watch.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Alan Greenspan

Two years before he became chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan made this Apple commercial. I wonder if he was still using an Apple IIc during Black Monday in 1987, or during the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Maybe he was still using his IIc during the dot-com boom and bust in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Better results

There were many entertaining Get a Mac ads, but this one cracks me up. It goes for the easy punch line, sure. Nothing wrong with that. The Get a Mac ad series ended in 2010 after a four-year run.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

1234

I like this iPod nano ad, but when it was first released, it drove me crazy. It seemed like it was on TV all the time, and the song “1234” is so catchy it sticks in your brain and it never goes away until the next iPod-ad-with-catchy-tune appears. And the complete music video of Feist’s “1234” is quite entertaining.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Under the covers

As a father of two, I find great joy in showing my sons what technology can do. The excited little boy on a FaceTime call with Santa reminds me of the times I’ve shown my sons how to do stuff on the computer, and how empowered my sons feel.

Watch this ad (YouTube)

Crazy ones

The Think Different campaign began during a down period in Apple’s history. The Crazy Ones commercial cast Apple in a new light.

During the finale of Seinfeld, Apple aired a 30-second version of this ad that ended with a shot of Jerry Seinfeld. Nothing against Seinfeld, but I prefer the original, 60-second version that ends with the girl who opens her eyes.

Watch this ad (YouTube)