A Brief History of Apple’s Advertising


4/17/20225 min read

When it comes to marketing and advertising, Apple is a company that certainly knows how to make a splash. Over the years, the brand released some truly iconic ads and campaigns that have helped to solidify its place as one of the most innovative and forward-thinking brands in the world. From its early print ads featuring colorful images and simple text to its more recent TV ads that are sleek, stylish, and often humorous, Apple’s advertising has always been one of the company’s defining characteristics.

How It All Started!

Apple was founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne. The company started out as a computer manufacturer and quickly gained a reputation for creating high-quality, user-friendly products. Their advertising strategy has changed quite a bit over the years, however. In the early days, Apple’s ads were focused primarily on print media. They would often run full-page ads with simple yet eye-catching images and headlines that highlighted the company’s commitment to design and simplicity.

As Apple’s products became more mainstream and their target consumers shifted, so too did their advertising strategy. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Apple began to release a series of now-famous commercials that featured the company’s co-founder and then-CEO, Steve Jobs. These ads were focused on positioning Apple as the cool, alternative choice to the more staid and boring PC companies of the time.

Today, Apple’s advertising is still focused on highlighting the company’s unique position in the tech world. However in recent years, Apple has shifted their focus to emotional connections, telling stories about how their products can change people’s lives, to make it easier and more fun! They are also the Privacy hero, emphasizing safe user experience above all else.

One of Apple’s earliest and most successful ad campaigns was the “Think Different” campaign, which ran from 1997 to 2002. The campaign featured a series of iconic commercials that showcased famous people like Mahatma Gandhi, John Lennon, and Amelia Earhart. The ads were intended to inspire viewers to think differently about their own lives and pursue their dreams.

The Early Days: Print Ads and Magazines Then Comes The Macintosh Years

In the early days of Apple, the company relied heavily on print ads to get its message out to consumers. These ads were often placed in popular magazines like Time, Newsweek, and BusinessWeek. Apple’s first ad, which ran in 1976, was a simple black-and-white page that featured a picture of the Apple I computer and the text “The personal computer for people who can’t program.”

When the Macintosh was introduced in 1984, Apple launched a massive 360 campaign to promote the new computer. The centrepiece of this campaign was a now-famous commercial that aired during the Super Bowl. The commercial, which was directed by Ridley Scott, featured a woman (played by actress Anya Major) throwing a hammer at a screen that was showing a group of Orwellian-looking characters. The commercial was meant to symbolize the power of the Macintosh to challenge the status quo.

The Steve Jobs Era: Creative Chaos

Apple’s marketing and advertising strategy changed dramatically when Steve Jobs returned to the company in 1997. He was determined to make Apple cool again, and his cutting-edge commercials helped to achieve that goal. The “Think Different” campaign mentioned earlier was a huge success, and it cemented Apple’s reputation as a cutting-edge brand.

Jobs was a perfectionist when it came to advertising, and he often clashed with his advertising team over the direction of the campaigns. He was known for making last-minute changes to ads, and he often demanded that they be re-shot multiple times. However, his obsessive attention to detail paid off, and many of Apple’s commercials are now considered iconic.

One of Jobs’ most famous commercials is the “Get a Mac” campaign, which ran from 2006 to 2009 by ad agency TBWA\Chiat\Day. The ads featured two actors playing the roles of “Mac” and “PC.” Mac was portrayed as a hip, young Millennial who was always up for new challenges, while PC was an older, stuffy character who was resistant to change. The ads were incredibly successful, and they helped to make Apple’s products seem more modern and appealing to younger consumers.

Post Steve Jobs Era

Apple’s advertising strategy has changed a lot since Steve Jobs died in 2011. Under Jobs, the company was known for its cutting-edge commercials and for being a trendsetter in the tech world. However, after Jobs’ death, Apple began to focus more on practicality and usability in their ads.

One of the most famous examples of this shift is the “Shot on iPhone” campaign, which ran from 2015 to 2017. The campaign featured a series of short videos that showcased the capabilities of the iPhone camera. The videos were shot by amateur filmmakers all over the world, and they highlighted the power of the iPhone to capture everyday moments.

“Share Your Gifts” campaign is another example, which launched in December 2017. The campaign features a series of holiday-themed commercials that showcase the different ways that people can use Apple products to share their talents with the world. The ads are intended to inspire viewers to pursue their passions and make the most of their talents.

Jobs was a master of marketing, and he understood the importance of creating ads that appealed to emotions. However, his death left a void at Apple, and the company has been trying to find its way ever since. The current CEO, Tim Cook, is more focused on operational efficiency than Jobs was. As a result, Apple’s ads have become more down-to-earth and less visionary. Nonetheless, the company is still one of the most successful marketers in the world, and it has created some truly iconic campaigns over the years.

Apple’s Obsession with Privacy

Apple has always been a company that values its users’ privacy. They have made it a point to encrypt all of their products and services so that no one can access user data without permission. They also refuse to sell user data to advertisers, which is something that other tech companies like Google and Facebook are willing to do. It has even run ads that criticize other companies, like Facebook, for their lack of privacy protection.

Apple’s dedication to privacy was also highlighted in a recent commercial right after the App Tracking Transparency update, the spot called “Tracked” featuring a man followed by intrusive character around London and as he disables tracking from each ad, the characters suddenly disappear.

According to Statista, among those that have already installed the iOS 14.5 update, the opt-in rate people who are choosing to allow app tracking) is around 21%, as of September 12, 2021.

So What’s Next?

Apple has been a pioneer in all things innovative. They’ve set the bar for what it means to be on top of your game and they continue to innovate with every new product release. Marketing is no exception, as you can see from their campaigns over the years: Apple’s advertising strategy continues to evolve alongside them. As we near yet another pivotal moment in time for technology, it will be fascinating to see how Apple chooses to market their products to the world.

What do you think Apple’s next big marketing move will be? Do you have a favourite Apple ad? Let me know in the comments below!