Behind the Scenes of Apple's 'Think Different' Campaign

Forbes publishes a lengthy guest post from advertising executive Rob Siltanen, one of the primary contributors to the development of Apple's famous "Think Different" advertising campaign that helped turn the company around following Steve Jobs' return. In the piece, Siltanen details the process of pitching the campaign to Jobs and his work on the "Here's to the Crazy Ones" script.

Siltanen was inspired to write the post following the publication of Walter Isaacson's authorized biography of Steve Jobs, which repeats the oft-cited claim that Jobs himself was responsible for much of the "Here's to the Crazy Ones" text and ideas.

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. 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 goes on to describe how he and other representatives of the high-profile TBWA/Chiat/Day advertising firm were surprised that Jobs required them to pitch to win the contract with the then-struggling Apple. In dreaming up concepts to pitch to Jobs, the one that stood out was the "Think Different" tagline paired with photos and videos of famous creative thinkers. Jobs liked the campaign but initially worried that it would appear too egotistical. Within seconds, however, Jobs changed course and brought the firm on board to carry out the idea.

think different
Siltanen used Robin Williams' speeches from the movie Dead Poets Society as inspiration for what became "Here's to the Crazy Ones". But when it was presented to Jobs in what turned out to eventually be nearly its final form, Jobs initially hated it.

We played the spot once, and when it finished, Jobs said, “It sucks! I hate it! It’s advertising agency ****! I thought you were going to write something like ‘Dead Poets Society!’ This is crap!”

Clow said something like, “Well, I take it you don’t want to see it again.” And Steve continued to go on a rant about how we should get the writers from “Dead Poets Society” or some “real writers” to write something.

Jobs eventually changed his mind again, and the "Think Different" campaign quickly marked a turning point for the company even as it was still trying to develop new products to execute the dramatic turnaround.

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Top Rated Comments

zoozx Avatar
163 months ago
Steve gets and takes credit for A LOT of stuff he had little to do with or initially had to be talked into accepting.
Score: 23 Votes (Like | Disagree)
jukeboxjoe Avatar
163 months ago
recognizer, not inventor

Steve Jobs' genius was to recognize, not invent, things that would take off. Jobs often hated things the first time before changing his mind. But let's give credit where credit is due. He recognized the right things, sometimes right away, like with the idea of a GUI after seeing it at PARC, and sometimes only after being fought back on, like the ad campaign, and countless other things that he eventually liked. But once he did, he would champion the cause, even at the expense of others, taking credit for himself. Gotta love/hate Steve Jobs. He thought he knew what everyone wanted... and most of the time, he was right.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MBP13 Avatar
163 months ago
I'm so glad "Think Different" was used. It's my absolute favorite ad of all time.

:apple:
Score: 17 Votes (Like | Disagree)
maflynn Avatar
163 months ago
Steve gets and takes credit for A LOT of stuff he had little to do with or initially had to be talked into accepting.

the "iMac" is another example where he hated the name and had to be convinced
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
bandalay Avatar
163 months ago
Comforting…

…to know that Steve Jobs was just like every other crazy client - and then some.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
morespce54 Avatar
163 months ago

...Jobs said, "It sucks! I hate it! It's advertising agency ****! I thought you were going to write something like 'Dead Poets Society!' This is crap!"

This is soooo Jobs-esque... ;)
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)