The best 18 Apple commercials of all time

Any discussion about Super Bowl commercials always leads to Apple.

apple commercials openslide
Credit: IDG
Must-see TV

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 favorite Apple ads. Click on the Watch this ad link to open a new page with the video of the commercial.

(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. There’s also Apple’s YouTube channel.)

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

apple your verse anthem
Credit: Apple
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. (Vimeo)

down airpods commercial
Credit: Apple
Stroll

Over the past couple of years, Apple has done a lot of commercials, and none of them stand out to me. Could it be that there are too many Apple commercials now? There seems to be a few different formulas to Apple commercials, and Apple sticks to those formulas, which, for me, means that nothing stands out anymore.

But if I have to pick a commercial from the past couple of years, I’d pick Apple’s recent ad for the AirPods. It features Lil Buck wearing a pair of AirPods, jookin’ through the streets of Mexico City. The song is “Down” by Marian Hill.

Watch this ad. (YouTube)

Credit: Apple
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)

Credit: Apple
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)

Credit: Apple
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
Credit: Apple
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
Credit: Apple
The Song

Apple has done a very good job with its holiday ads in recent years. I’ve already mentioned ”Misunderstood” and 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 heartstrings just as the American version does.

Watch this ad. (YouTube)

Credit: Apple
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)

Credit: Apple
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).

Watch this ad. (YouTube)

Credit: Apple
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)

Credit: Apple
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)

Credit: Apple
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)

Credit: Apple
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)

Credit: Apple
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. In the “reality” of commercials, Apple Geniuses wear their uniforms at all times, like professional athletes, 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)

Credit: Apple
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 apple commercial
Credit: Apple
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.

Watch this ad. (YouTube)

Credit: Apple
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)

Credit: Apple
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. I prefer the original, 60-second version that ends with the girl who opens her eyes.

Richard Dreyfuss is the actor who does the voiceover for these commercials, but there’s actually a never-aired version with Steve Jobs doing the voiceover. Forbes has a great story on the history of the commercial.

Watch this ad. (YouTube)