Ad of the Day: Here’s the Commercial That Apple Almost Ran on the Super Bowl

A day in the life of its products

Headshot of Tim Nudd

There was lots of speculation in recent weeks that Apple might be running a Super Bowl commercial this year to mark the 30th birthday of Macintosh—and of the Super Bowl spot that so famously launched it.

That didn't happen. But this morning, Apple did release just such an ad online. (And yes, it was being considered for last night's broadcast before plans changed, sources say.) On the website, Apple calls the new film "a story 30 years and one day in the making." And it's a solid if not spectacular production, with an interesting conceit.

Ten days ago, on Jan. 24—exactly 30 years to the day after Apple introduced Macintosh—the company sent 15 camera crews all over the world to document a single day in the life of Apple products. (This was five days after Lee Clow's tweet about Apple and the Super Bowl, so it seems likely that the Super Bowl plan was then in the works.) The company goes on:

From sunrise in Melbourne to nightfall in Los Angeles, they documented people doing amazing things with Apple products. They shot over 70 hours of footage—all with the iPhone 5s. Then it was edited and scored with an original soundtrack. Thanks to the power of the Mac and the innovations it has inspired, an effort that normally takes months was accomplished in a matter of days.

It's a nice framework for a birthday celebration (if a tad reminiscent of the old sunrise spot for Prudential by Droga5). Most interestingly, it's quite similar in many ways to the commercial Microsoft ran on Sunday night, though in other ways very different, too. The Microsoft ad celebrates "technology" generally, and only now and then singles out particular Microsoft technologies (notable among them, Kinect). The Apple ad, though, celebrates Apple products at every turn—iPads, iPhones, desktop computers.

The Microsoft ad tugs at the heartstrings more, and its less self-congratulatory in some ways. But the Apple ad has the more direct through line to the products and what they've accomplished. Watching the Microsoft ad, you're told that Microsoft is making the world a better place. Watching the Apple ad, you're simply reminded that Apple already has.

It's possible Apple didn't want to be on the same broadcast as Microsoft, and perhaps appear to be imparting the same message. But in fact, it's a different message—one that has 30 years of innovative history behind it. Looking at it that way, no wonder Apple didn't need the Super Bowl this year. The company's past and present is a story you already know and believe. It's the future that's the tricky part.

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.