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What Apple Switcher ad star Ellen Feiss is doing now

Ellen Feiss: Left: as in her Switcher ad and (right) as she is today (Source: Ohio State University)

Student Ellen Feiss may have looked stoned in her famous Apple Switcher ad, but it turns out that she wasn't kidding when she claimed that the paper a PC destroyed was "really good."

The Switcher TV ads were central to an Apple marketing campaign that briefly ran in 2002 and 2003. It featured people talking about how and why they had moved from a PC to a Mac.

Overall the campaign failed to achieve much success for Apple. The company would move on to much greater effect with the "Get a Mac" campaign featuring John Hodgman as PC and Justin Long as Mac.

But the Switcher ad that had much more impact than the rest. Featuring Ellen Feiss, then a school student, this one ad stood out because in recounting how a PC destroyed "half of my paper," she looks a little... out of it.

Later that same year, Feiss told Post- magazine what had happened on set.

"I do admit to looking pretty out of it in that commercial — I think I look horrible," she said. "It was after school, but I was the last person to make the commercial, so by the time I made it, it was like 10, so I was really tired."

"The funny thing was, I was on drugs!" she added. "I was on Benedryl, my allergy medication, so I was really out of it anyway."

"That's why my eyes were all red, because I have seasonal allergies," she continued. "But no one believes me."

She says that Apple reached out to her after the ad went viral, to "supposedly advise me."

"They were like, 'We don't really want you to take this anywhere,' but I decided to get an agent anyway," she continued. Feiss did get taken to Macworld in July of that year, and met Steve Jobs.

"He called me by my first name — clever, huh?" she said. "It was brief."

Feiss was also not impressed with Macworld. "It seems like the kind of thing where if you're not in the biz... I thought it was the most boring thing," she said.

Ellen Feiss in her 2002 Switcher ad
Ellen Feiss in her 2002 Switcher ad

Some 21 years on from that commercial, Dr. Feiss joined the History of Art Department at Ohio State for for 2023-2024 in a research and teaching role. She received what the university calls one of its most prestigious postdoctoral fellowships, the President's Postdoctoral Scholars Program (PPSP).

Dr. Feiss studies art and politics in post-1960 Europe and the US. Her 2022 PhD in the History of Art is from UC Berkeley, and her dissertation was on "Art in the War on Poverty, 1959-1973."

That paper that the PC ate was "about Chinatown," she told Post-, " and the formation of Chinatowns in America."

"I lost like three pages of it; it was terrible," she said. "It was a really, really good paper."