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Wednesday, December 14, 2011, 04:56 pm PT (07:56 pm ET)

Steve Jobs initially hated Apple's 'Think Different' campaign

Late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' first reaction to the "Think Different" ad campaign was less than welcoming, calling it "crap" before ultimately changing his mind and running the now iconic series.

In a lengthy piece written for Forbes by an advertising executive instrumental to the campaign's creation, Jobs reportedly hated the first "To the crazy ones" commercial, but came around to green light what would begin one of the most iconic examples of advertising in recent history.

Rob Siltanen, chairman and chief creative officer at Siltanen and Partners, notes that he was compelled to write the article when he saw discrepancies in Walter Isaacson's best-selling biography, which suggested that Jobs had written most of the "To the crazy ones" launch commercial.

"Steve was highly involved with the advertising and every facet of Apple’s business. But he was far from the mastermind behind the renowned launch spot," Siltanen writes. "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."

Siltanen, who was creative director and managing partner at advertising firm TBWA/Chiat/Day during the "Think Different" campaign, pored over personal documents and notes he had taken during the creative process to write the Forbes piece.

Rob Siltanen

Rob Siltanen | Source: Forbes


The process began when Jobs tasked the firm to come up a new ad campaign and required them to pitch it in order to win the contract. At the time Apple was suffering and desperately needed a new direction, and Siltanen notes that the "Think Different" slogan and the idea to match it with black-and-white photos of famous visionaries captured the company's intentions perfectly. The work was the brainchild of TBWA/Chiat/Day art director Craig Tanimoto.

When Jobs was first presented with the pitch, which included a short TV commercial set to Seal's song "Crazy," his first reaction panned the series, saying it would make him look like an egotist. He almost immediately changed his mind, however, and TBWA/Chiat/Day won the contract.

"[Jobs] looked around the room filled with the 'Think Different' billboards and said, '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," Siltanen recalls. "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.'”

Alfred Hitchcock


Following the successful pitch, Jobs wanted to use the original TV commercial featuring Seal, but the piece was too long and could not be cut down to the required 60 seconds. Instead, Siltanen suggested an ad with wording similar to a speech Robin Williams made in the movie "Dead Poets Society." Jobs liked the idea and the ad exec went to work creating a TV spot, writing with the mindset it would be voiced by Robin Williams.

The result of Siltanen's work was a rough draft of what would become the "To the crazy ones" commercial. His script, which was tweaked by ad guru Lee Clow, was very close to what would finally go to air.

"We played the spot once, and when it finished, Jobs said, '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!,'" Siltanen remembers of the commercial pitch.

Jobs ultimately changed his mind, and "To the crazy ones" was made featuring a voice-over by Richard Dreyfuss. The kickoff to the "Think Different" campaign was a success, and embodied what Apple was striving to achieve in setting themselves apart from the competition.


"To the crazy ones" TV spot featuring voice-over by Richard Dreyfuss | Source: Forbes


After the campaign launched, Apple stock prices tripled within a year and the ads went on to win multiple awards including several commercial-of-the-year titles for the "Crazy ones" spot.

"While Steve Jobs didn’t create the advertising concepts, he does deserve an incredible amount of credit," Siltanen writes. "Without Steve Jobs there’s not a shot in hell that a campaign as monstrously big as this one would get even close to flying off the ground."