Steve Jobs and the 'Think Different' ad: The untold story

Apple's CEO was not at all fond of the original "Think Different" ad, as revealed in a detailed account written by a member of the ad team that developed the 1997 campaign.

Legend has it that Steve Jobs was so involved in the creation of Apple's "Think Different" campaign that he could have -- maybe did -- write the thing himself.

So along comes an Apple ad writer to tell us all that this legend should end because it has no legs.

Writing for Forbes, Rob Siltanen, one of the creative people involved in winning Apple's business and then developing campaigns from 1997 onward, recounts a very different story of the development of the "Here's to the Crazy Ones" TV ad that launched the campaign.

He says that Jobs called the initial script that he presented "s***." He also says that from this very first version, the soul, the beginning, and the ending still made it into the final version.

Jobs, you see, wasn't the easiest person to have a chat with.

"While I greatly respected Steve for his remarkable accomplishments and extraordinary passion, I didn't have much patience for his often abrasive and condescending personality," writes Siltanen.

At first, Siltanen relates that Jobs didn't even want to make a TV ad. He felt a few print ads in the computer magazines would be enough. The person with the idea of putting images of famous geniuses with the line "Think Different" was, he says, an art director called Craig Tanimoto. "Think Different" was supposed to be the opposite of "Think IBM."

The original music was to be Seal's "Crazy", but the agency couldn't make it fit into 60 seconds with meaningful lyrics intact.

Jobs' initial reaction to the concept was, according to Siltanen: "This is great, this is really great ... but I can't do this. People already think I'm an egotist, and putting the Apple logo up there with all these geniuses will get me skewered by the press."

He didn't seem to take much persuading. Indeed, Siltanen says, Jobs persuaded himself very quickly. However, once the actual script was put together, Jobs believed he would be getting something a la "Dead Poets Society."

Siltanen flew back to Cupertino with two colleagues and presented the finished film.

Jobs' reaction, according to Siltanen?

"It sucks! I hate it! It's advertising agency s***! I thought you were going to write something like 'Dead Poets Society!' This is crap!"

At that point, Siltanen says he gave up with Jobs and went back to work on other clients' business. However, the concept was given to other writers to finesse, with really rather good results.

And so legends are made, rewritten, and reborn. Reading Siltanen's version, I found it believable. It is, though, very different thinking from the legends that went before it.

 

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