The 'Get a Mac' creative team reveals their favorite spots

The writers, director and talent behind the Apple campaign, which turned 10 this year, talk about the ads that still make them smile.

From 2006 to 2010, the creative team behind Apple's "Get a Mac" campaign produced 323 spots. But Steve Jobs could be a tough audience, and only 66 of them ever made it to air. So in a way, the entire campaign could be considered a best-of reel.

But still, people have their favorites. To commemorate the 10th anniversary of "Get a Mac," Campaign US spent months interviewing the creative directors, crew and actors behind the campaign to produce a two-part oral history (Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.) We also asked them to pick their favorite (and least favorite) spots.


Scott Trattner (creative director): My favorite commercial was the first one. I think it was because the idea finally and fully showed up in culture, it left our thoughts and became a real thing that people could love, hate, agree, debate, etc., and we could finally find out if all this awesome hard work was going to pay off.


John Hodgman ("PC"): The spot where I have a virus and I have to sneeze and fall backwards. I got to fall over and over and over again onto a big blue mattress. They felt so bad for me that they sent a masseuse to my hotel room to give me a massage. I had never experienced anything like that before. No one at the "New York Times Magazine" ever sent a masseuse to my room after a particularly strenuous interview.

Mike Refuerzo (executive producer): "Virus," to me, is classic. It's one of the very first ones we made and helped define the campaign. The business is written in effortlessly. John and Justin nailed it, their performances are spot on and it has a great ending.


Jason Sperling (creative director): This one worked so well, and on so many levels. If I remember correctly it was a replacement spot that we added last minute (we called an actress Phil [Morrison] knew and she raced to set to be in it) because another spot wasn't working. After we started shooting, it wasn't working either. When we finally re-wrote it, it became a campaign gem, and the perfect way to express their complex relationship. My favorite line comes from Mac when he tries to cheer his buddy up: "You are a wizard with numbers and you dress like a gentleman."

Phil Morrison (director): The first one with Corinne Bohrer as their therapist had a good balance of sharp writing and emotional improvisation. A good one where they could be like humans, but still stay true to first principles (that they were computers).

"Sad Song"

Kevin Tenglin (associate creative director): It's a good spot but also sentimental for me. The campaign was on shaky ground, or at least in a bit of a lull. They had gone two rounds, I think, without selling a spot when Jamie [Reilly] and I came on board, and "Sad Song" was one of our first spots. From what I understand, when Steve [Jobs] saw that spot, Duncan [Milner, chief creative officer, TBWA\Media Arts Lab] said "it knocked him off his chair." So it was kind of the start of a second era of spots that got a little wackier. We did cheerleaders and time machines and 80s PC, and I think that spot was kind of the start down that road.

Jamie Reilly (creative director): My favorite spot we worked on didn't make the air. It was called "Benefit Concert." it's a long-form from the first round [Kevin and I] worked on, and "Sad Song" got picked (which I love). So maybe I just like "Benefit Concert" because it didn't get to see the light of day. 

"Broken Promises"

Barton Corley (associate creative director): I appreciate having seen this campaign from two sides, as creator and as viewer. While I love a lot of the films we made in the beginning, the ones I got to experience as a viewer, after I left Media Arts Lab in early 2007, are some of my favorites. "Vista Blues," "Calming Teas," and "Broken Promises" all rank right up there.

"Tree Trimming"

Eric Grunbaum (executive creative director): This was an animated spot we created for the holiday. Mac and PC were such known personalities, it was fun to take them to the realm of animation. And in the spirit of the holidays, it was great to see them (mostly) put aside their differences.

Alicia Dotter (copywriter): The claymation holiday spot was a pretty fun one to make. Being able to break the mold a little and surprise people really felt like a win.

Click here to listen to the 'Get a Mac' podcast with John Hodgman, Justin Long and scriptwriter Jason Sperling

"Editorial" & "Emergency Banner Refresh"

Jason Sperling: Just as the TV campaign was starting to get a little stagnant, we started making these contextualized Internet ads.

Mike Refuerzo: We worked directly with the sites (our first partner was the New York Times) to create a totally clean environment with no other ads, and were allowed a complete takeover—including the masthead real estate. Viewers happily clicked to see more of their favorite two pitchmen.

Jason Sperling: It was incredibly meta. Here were two computers, talking on computers, living in websites and completely aware of their surroundings. But it worked. And it allowed us to play with the space, and add a layer of self-awareness and a physicality that didn't exist on TV. Fun, effective and an innovative use of media.

"Second Opinion"

Jamie Reilly: From the beginning, when those guys started making online spots, the characters inhabited the internet like it was a physical space. "Second Opinion" had Mac and PC interacting with other, crummier ads on the internet.

"Apple WWDC 2007 Opening"

Eric Grunbaum: This one demonstrates the legs of a campaign that could extend even to Apple's corporate events like WWDC. But it's largely a favorite for sentimental reasons. We were asked to "come up with something for WWDC" while we were already on set shooting other "Get a Mac" commercials. We wrote it on the spot, and shot it before the ink was even dry. The inside jokes were of course "inside," but got big laughs from the attendees. And of course, thinking back to all those times with Steve and Phil bring back some pretty awesome memories. 


Scott Trattner: My least favorite spot was the angel/devil one. I remember when Jason came up with that, I was just like, "Come on. Angel/Devil? That's like, the oldest trope in the book. We're going to do that cliché?" He was like, "Fuck off." It wasn't like I had any authority. People loved that spot. I got wrapped up in my own elitist aesthetic mind.


Phil Morrison: It was a great simple sight gag that made its point well, and utilized the TV space in a similar way to how the creatives so brilliantly had us doing for the NY Times web page and other places. (Although it was tricky because it was fairly soon after everyone had to start "protecting for 4:3," which made using the edges of a white cyc kind of a puzzle.) This one is also a good example of the continuing contribution of Joe Ventura, the mysterious script doctor mentioned in Part 1 of the oral history! 


Jason Sperling: Find the pain points, create a memorable way to express it, then pray John and Justin would bring the comedy. In this case, the new operating system Vista has so many security issues that a ridiculous amount of security measures were put into place. The way we expressed it was a new security detail that complicated the most basic tasks, like chatting with Mac. And we landed the knockout punch that Steve loved so much with the security guard's last line: "You are coming to a sad realization, cancel or allow?"

"Spit Take" (unaired)

Kevin Tenglin: PC was drinking coffee, and Mac would say something awesome about himself and PC would spit. It's the dumbest, oldest joke ever, which is maybe why I liked it so much. But alas, no one else did.

Click here to read An oral history of 'Get a Mac,' Part 1 and click here for Part 2

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