NEWS: 11.11.20 – Viewers who were tuned in to Apple’s announcement Tuesday of new Macs with Apple silicon but prematurely clicked (or tapped) on the “done” button might have missed just one more thing following the end of the pre-recorded presentation.
During the “One More Thing” Apple Event from Apple Park on Tuesday, the company showcased its next generation of Macs — a 13-inch MacBook Air, a 13-inch MacBook Pro, and a Mac mini — all powere by Apple’s new M1 chip designed in-house. However, the scene stealer and real star of the show (which may well have brought down the house had the event featured a live audience) was the return of a familiar face from the company’s past: comedian John Hodgman, better known as the PC from the “Get a Mac” ads on television.
In the style of a Steve Jobs keynote address featuring an added bonus at the end — but more akin to the extra scenes at the conclusion of films produced by Marvel Studios (e.g., “The Avengers”) — the Cupertino, California-based company’s presentation ends with Apple CEO, Tim Cook, bidding farewell but just when the viewer tuned in to the webcast of the event thinks that the show is over, Hodgman, in his PC persona, enters the scene as one more thing to the “One More Thing” Apple Event.
According to a report following the event on Tuesday from the website, The Verge, in the short clip, this time around Hodgman plays a “put upon” PC reacting to the announcement of Apple’s new M1-powered Mac computers. Hodgman’s character proceeds to then complain about the improved performance and battery life that the new chip purportedly offers on the updated Macs versus what PCs can do in comparison.
However, as noted by The Verge, absent from the short clip is actor Justin Long who made up the other half of Apple’s “Get a Mac” ads with his portrayal of PC’s adversary, the Mac.
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Apple’s “Get a Mac” ads — which ended their run on television more than a decade ago — are, according to a retrospective published earlier this year in May from the website, Cult of Mac, one of the most fondly remembered extended ad campaigns in Apple history alongside the “Think Different” and the iPod “Silhouette” ad campaigns. Debuting in 2006 shortly after the Mac transition to Intel processors, the TV spots starred Hodgman as the “stuffy, awkward” PC while Long portrayed the “cool, youthful” Mac.
Cult of Mac reported that Jobs wanted an ad campaign that highlighted the difference between Macs and PCs and, in particular, why Apple computers kicked their competitors to the curb. For a long time, the creative teams at the TBWA Media Arts Lab working on the project struggled to come up with just the right approach. But then, After about six months of brainstorming, the idea finally came to fruition.
“I remember saying… what if we embody the two characters? One guy could say, ‘I’m a Mac.’ One guy could say, ‘I’m a PC.’ The Mac could be on roller skates circling the PC saying how fast he is,” said TBWA Media Arts Lab creative director, Scott Trattner, per an oral history of the ad campaign published by the website, Campaign (and quoted by Cult of Mac in its retrospective).
And, according to Cult of Mac, things picked up from there.
Cult of Mac reported that the ads ran for the next few years after that with 66 TV spots in total. The ad campaign also spread to other markets outside of the U.S., with alternate actors playing the Mac and PC roles. While the last “Get a Mac” TV spots were aired by Apple in October 2009 — which marked the beginning of the end of the ad campaign — the ads were still able to be viewed online via Apple’s website through May 2010 before they were ultimately shelved for good.
According to a report last year from the website, MarketWatch, Apple’s late co-founder and former CEO did not want the TV spots to be “laugh out loud” funny. If it wasn’t for Jobs, the “Get a Mac” ads would have been a lot funnier.
MarketWatch reported that Long said some of the funniest versions of the ads which were too funny for television — more than 300 were shot altogether — never aired.
“[Apple] said, basically, that Steve Jobs preferred when they weren’t super funny… because he thought it would detract from the point of the commercial. He thought if people were too focused on the humor in it, they would lose sight of the product,” said Long in an interview with the website, People TV (and quoted by MarketWatch in its report).
In December 2016, Computerworld magazine published a report on 15 things about the “Get a Mac” ad campaign that were previously undisclosed to the public.
According to Computerworld (based on the oral history published by Campaign), huge amounts of work went into choosing just the right look for both characters onscreen with the Mac always wearing designer gear in contrast to the suits worn by the PC. The decision to cast Long as the Mac — who originally thought he was going to play the part of the PC — came from Jobs himself after seeing the actor in the film “Herbie: Fully Loaded.” As far as the PC role, the creative team wanted the character to be “smart, charming, even lovable” and when they saw Hodgman in “The Daily Show” on cable TV’s Comedy Central network, they were sold.
Described as “a metaphorical stand-in for the PC,” Hodgman, who (at the time) in addition to being a contributor to “The Daily Show” was also an editor with the New York Times, was interviewed back in October 2006 by the tech blog, Engadget, which asked him the question “Mac or PC?” and this is how the comedian responded:
“Here is the joke that is absolutely apt, though I once promised I would never make it: ‘I play one on TV, but I am not a PC.’ It is true. I am first of all, not a computer but a human being, and, second of all, a Mac user almost exclusively since 1984,” said Hodgman.
Computerworld reported in 2016 that the ad campaign was developed to underline the advantages of the Mac platform in contrast to the PC as Apple migrated its Macs to Intel processors. The creative teams behind the project created 323 different “Get A Mac” TV spots and rejected hundreds more, but in the end, Jobs authorized only 66 to be aired. In 2009, the ads were named “best advertising campaign of the decade” by the magazine, Adweek according to the 2019 report from MarketWatch.
While the “Get a Mac” TV spots helped to reinvigorate Apple’s Mac sales as reported last year by MarketWatch, in the report Tuesday from The Verge, the website indicated that it was not clear whether or not Apple was resurrecting the ad campaign for its new line of M1-powered Macs as a result of the inclusion of Hodgman’s PC character at the “One More Thing” Apple Event.
Related Reading: from the PowerBook Central archives (July 2007) – “‘Get a Mac’ Spoof: Hi, I’m a Marvel, I’m a DC”