Working for Steve Jobs could be (ahem) difficult.
But I didn’t know the whole story behind Apple’s brilliant “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” campaign — a nine-month slog for Apple agency Chiat/Day jammed with weekly presentations, frequent all-night creative sessions, daily doses of rejection, verbal abuse, and thousands (and thousands) of dead ideas.
Sounds like a walk in the park.
It’s all packed into this 10-year anniversary group interview on the Campaignlive.com site (Part II of the group interview is here). Those who know how hard it is to create a single good campaign will find the following interesting:
Mike Refuerzo: Literally for six months we presented 10, 15 ideas [to Jobs] every single week. And I’m not just talking about TV scripts. If we believed in an idea, it was blown out to what the outdoor looked like, what the print looked like. It was a 360 for each idea. That’s the kind of excellence that Steve would expect of us.
There it is: 10-15 fully formed campaign ideas — with comp executions — every week.
For upwards of six months.
The resulting “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” campaign was a huge success. (Little known fun facts: a campaign featuring Owen Wilson almost beat out the Hodgman/Long series; they shot 323 spots to get the 66 they aired; and Steve Jobs picked Justin Long for the campaign after seeing him in the largely horrifying Herbie, Fully Loaded.)
So how did the creative team hold up under the pressure?
Scott Trattner: Like the pressure wasn’t on already. As a creative person working on the account, the pressure was immense. You’re like, “Fuck, I’ve been working on this thing for seven months.”
Jason Sperling: I remember being extremely burned out. I think that week I had people in my office crying, saying they couldn’t do this anymore.
I honestly can’t visualize trying to sell a single campaign every day for more than half a year.
Christ, you might as well become a novelist.
The pressure to create a brilliant campaign — and then create another brilliant campaign when your first goes down in flames, then repeat daily for months — could only lead to a Lifetime Achievement Award from the makers of Pepcid AC.
Especially if your client was comfortable criticizing your work with phrases like “That’s fucking inane” and “That’s shit.”
One revealing moment of the podcast involved creative director Jason Sperling’s admission that they regularly presented finished spots to Jobs at the stage where others would normally show a storyboard or script.
They called it “testing” but in truth, they were producing nearly finished spots because Jobs wouldn’t respond to anything else.
I wonder if anyone is spending that kind of money these days.
At least now you know why your Macs and iPhones are so expensive.
Keep writing (as much as it takes), Tom Chandler.