Rob Siltanen, an ad executive who worked at TBWA/Chiat/Day, the agency that created Apple's "Think Different" campaign, has decided to set the creation story record straight for the famed ads, coming out with his full account in Forbes. "I’ve seen a few inaccurate articles and comments floating around the Internet about how the legendary 'Think Different' campaign was conceived," he writes. "What prompted me to share this inside account was Walter Isaacson’s recent, best-selling biography on Steve Jobs," he continues. Siltanen worked as a creative director and managing partner at the time and claims he was in the room when the team pitched the campaign to Jobs. And according to his story, drawn from handwritten journals, there are few things wrong with the story that's currently being told.
Steve Jobs's Involvement
According to the Isaacson biography, Jobs created and wrote the first commercial. Others have talked up Jobs involvement and he indeed did get the media credit for the Apple turn around, which rode on the success of the campaign. But, as Siltanen explains, Jobs didn't have much to do with the actual creation of the campaign.
But he was far from the mastermind behind the renowned launch spot. In fact, he was blatantly harsh on the commercial that would eventually play a pivotal role in helping Apple achieve one of the greatest corporate turnarounds in business history. As you’ll learn later in my account, the soul of the original “The crazy ones” script I presented to Jobs, as well as the original beginning and ending of the celebrated script, all ultimately stayed in place, even though Jobs initially called the script “shit.”
The ad agency put together the idea for Jobs, hoping to win the contract. As Siltanen describes it, at first Jobs didn't even like it.
“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.” The room was totally silent. The “Think Different” campaign was the only campaign we had in our bag of tricks, and I thought for certain we were toast. Steve then paused and looked around the room and said out loud, yet almost as if to his own self, “What am I doing? Screw it. It’s the right thing. It’s great. Let’s talk tomorrow.”
The Creator of "Think Different"
While some out there believe Jobs cut the tagline down from the adverb "differently" to the noun "different," in fact the tagline came to Jobs the way we read it today. In fact, copywriter Craig Tanimoto came up with the slogan. "IBM has a campaign out that says 'Think IBM' (it was a campaign for their ThinkPad), and I feel Apple is very different from IBM," Tanimoto told Siltanen. "So I felt 'Think Different' was interesting. I then thought it would be cool to attach those words to some of the world’s most different-thinking people."
Who Wrote the Lyrics?
As for the lyrics that go along with the commercial, though Jobs reads them in the original commercial below, he's not responsible, as Isaacson insinuates in his biography. And neither is Tanimoto, as Low End Mac's Tom Hornby reported. The spot features Richard Dreyfus reading prose Siltanen wrote, actually. At first, the agency wanted to use the Seal song "Crazy," but it was too long for the 60 second spot Jobs requested. Inspired by the Dead Poets Societ Siltanen wrote his own prose. At first Jobs called it crap. "It sucks! I hate it! It’s advertising agency shit! I thought you were going to write something like ‘Dead Poets Society!’ This is crap!" recalls Siltanen. eventually Apple went with it.
And that's how Apple created this iconic commercial. At least according to one ad exec.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.