Gladys Santiago

The Underlying “1984” Elements in Apple’s PC Switcher Banner Ad

Posted in Advertising by Gladys Santiago on November 2, 2009

Apple PC Switcher Ad

The above screenshot of the New York Times homepage shows a video banner ad for Apple.  In the ad, PC and Mac observe PC users as they enter Apple stores and make the switch to a Mac.  PC and Mac engage in the usual, light-heartedly competitive banter that is expected of these ads as PC neurotically stresses over its current users deciding to purchase Macs since an upgrade to Windows 7 would involve needing to transfer all their files to the new operating system anyway.  PC mentions Mac ranking first in customer satisfaction and then appears in one of the “PC Switcher” surveillance monitors to physically stop consumers from entering the Apple store.  The banner doesn’t veer away from the iconic and oft parodied style of TBWA’s “Mac vs. PC” campaign, but it does seem to reference the company’s classic 1984 ad in a way that kind of portrays Apple as a hegemonic power.

Like the 1984 ad, a continuous stream of people are seen marching walking towards Apple stores.  The placement of the white, seemingly glowing Apple logo at the top, center of the screens is remarkably similar to the image below, where the drones stare mindlessly at a giant, illuminating screen.  The 1984 drones are nameless and indistinguishable from one another, compared to the silent and faceless, yet diverse (demographically speaking) consumer masses approaching Apple stores.  I mention demographics because I’m pretty sure that showing men and women of various races was strategic. 

Apple 1984 Ad

Much of PC and Mac’s attention is on the surveillance monitors, which not surprisingly  depict the some-what robotic consumer arrivals to Apple stores in a drab, army green hue.  It’s as if these consumers are relegated to a separate world that is more similar to the cold, lifeless existence portrayed in 1984 than the casual and bright minimalist setting “Mac vs. PC” ads are normally set in.  The most obvious similarity of the banner ad to 1984 is the theme of being watched.  It’s unclear if the viewer is supposed to believe that PC setup the monitors, but that is beside the point because the visual inclusion of the monitors screams “big brother is watching you.”  In addition, both PC and Mac act a voyeurs of computer-buying habits as they both observe commerce in progress.  In attempts of curbing switches to Apple, PC enters the world of the monitored and becomes monitored himself as Mac watches in a non-threatening indifference as if to say, “Go about your business.  Pretend I’m not here,” all the meanwhile paying close attention to the unquestioning devotion that his cool facade created.

Apple 1984 Ad