The Greatest Marketer of the Age

Steve Jobs demanded that his company build great products—and great advertising campaigns

In the years following, Jobs' fight to convince people of his vision would take different forms—and different marketing styles. He continued to push his computer line in aggressive TV campaigns in the 2000s—first, Errol Morris's "Switchers" ads, and then Phil Morrison's four-year, 66-spot "Get a Mac" campaign. "Switchers," which debuted in 2002, starred PC users who had switched to Macs, and introduced the brand's soon-to-be-famous blank white set, an elegant extension of the products' modern, minimalist style. Morris used his Interrotron—a device with a two-way mirror that allows the subject to look him in the eye and answer his questions while also looking directly into the camera—to extract some of the most intimate advertising testimonials ever put to film.

"Get a Mac," which launched in 2006 with John Hodgman and Justin Long as the bumbling PC and the cool, unflappable Mac, was quite simply the best creative TV work of the decade. Turning the machines into people embodied Jobs' notion of technology as a humanizing force. Making it a comedy act allowed him to blast the competition with possibly the most lovable attack ads in history. (See all 66 "Get a Mac" ads here.)

Jobs, though, had turned to another obsession by the early 2000s: music. The iPod and iTunes, introduced in 2001, would change his company's fortunes forever and put him in a completely foreign marketing position—that of overwhelming market leader. For once, Apple didn't have to fight. It responded by exuberantly and single-mindedly celebrating the beauty and simplicity of its creation—in explosions of color across a campaign that amounted to a spiritual release from the gloom of "1984." (Apple even remixed that old spot, on the occasion of its 20th anniversary in 2004, to outfit the heroine with an iPod, along with the product's newly iconic white earbuds.) Fittingly, the iPod and iTunes TV spots also allowed Apple thrillingly to play DJ and craft a musical playlist for the culture.

After the iPod came the iPhone, in 2007, another revolutionary product that would be a megahit in the market—and for Jobs, another creative canvas in advertising. The first teaser spot, on the Oscars, stitched together movie and TV scenes with famous actors and actresses on the phone—the first all-star cast since "Think different." The campaign then dove into the most elementary of advertising messaging: the product demonstration. (The gadget offered an experience so new, it needed the oldest marketing trick in the book to promote it.) For Jobs, it was a return to his roots. A hand holds the phone and shows you how to use it—much as Jobs proudly showed off the Macintosh in his very first product demo, to a packed auditorium at Apple's shareholder meeting, in January 1984.

Jobs would have one more major product to introduce—the iPad, in 2010. The early spots were a simple mix of iPod and iPhone ad themes, with driving music and quick-cut hand swipes of the device. But with the iPad 2, released this past March, Jobs—aware his time was running out—gave the messaging a much more cosmic aspect.

"This is what we believe," said the voiceover on the launch spot, alongside a quiet piano score, as a finger reached out to touch the glowing plane of the device in profile—an almost sacred-looking image. "Technology alone is not enough. Faster. Thinner. Lighter. Those are all good things. But when technology gets out of the way, everything becomes more delightful, even magical. That's when you leap forward. That's when you end up with something like this."

More ads would follow through the spring and summer, each one a gentle meditation on the dance between humans and their machines. But those 46 words of ad copy would serve as Jobs' career epitaph, both as product developer and marketer. Never before had he so completely and explicitly named the philosophy behind his life's work. "Something like this" wasn't just the iPad 2. It was everything Apple ever made. It was the products that made you better and made the world better. It was advertising that made you believe (and want to buy). It was the convergence of beauty and truth. 

It was Steve Jobs' gift to Apple, and to the world.