Aug 12

Behind Andy Hertzfeld’s old Mac video

Last week, Andy Hertzfeld made a splash by posting this “lost video” on his Google+ page. Andy, as most know, was part of the original Macintosh team.

Andy described it as a “rare commercial” made by agency Chiat/Day that never ran because it was deemed “too self-congratulatory.”

It’s amazing that there are any videos out there left to mine, but Andy definitely pulled a rabbit out of his hat with this one. We owe him a big thanks for sharing.

Though many took off with the story that this was indeed an un-aired commercial, that’s obviously not the case. It’s 1:07 in length and has no logo at the end.

Figuring that there was more of a story to it than that, I contacted one of the original creative team at Chiat to see if I could learn more. If you enjoyed the video, you’ll probably enjoy the backstory.

It turns out that some have been searching for this footage for many years, and Andy’s post helps quench their thirst. Here’s what happened way back when:

Steve Jobs asked the agency to film interviews with the top engineers and designers on the original Macintosh team for possible use in commercials. This approach was never considered as the big Superbowl introduction, but it was a contender to serve as a follow-on campaign. At the very least, Steve wanted to have this film as part of the historical record.

The agency creative team spent a week filming interviews with the Macintosh team members at a top-secret location in Palo Alto. (See update below.) Though she wasn’t shown in this video, Susan Kare was there as well. As the story was told to me, “she wore machine-gun earrings and talked about the approach to designing the desktop icons.”

The director on this shoot was Mark Coppos, who himself has been a major figure in Apple’s advertising past. Coppos not only directed most of the early Macintosh demo commercials, he did a ton of ads in the “think different” days as well, from the Burning Bunny to later spots for iMac and the stream of Apple products that followed.

The entire creative team from Chiat was on hand for the Palo Alto shoot, including Lee Clow, Steve Hayden, Brent Thomas, Penny Kapousouz and agency producer Richard O’Neill (still a Chiat executive today).

The videos that resulted from this shoot obviously never became commercials. They were  shown at sales meetings and internal events. Once the Chiat team created the Macintosh demo spots — such as Manuals — there was no doubt what would follow the Super Bowl intro. Steve always loved simple and powerful demo commercials. And one spot that didn’t actually show a computer (“1984”) was more than enough.

Little side-story: The Macintosh demo commercials were created in a unique environment. They were all shot and edited in Coppos’ LA studio at the same time, with the Chiat team writing scripts on the spot as they came up with new ways to demonstrate the Macintosh advantage. Both Steve Jobs and John Sculley came down to spend an afternoon and evening with the team, and they were both impressed with the “machine” Chiat had created to churn out all of this advertising.

And there you have it. Thanks again to Andy Hertzfeld for making this video available. Maybe he’s still got a few missing pieces hiding in his vault.

[Update 5:31 EDT 8/13/12: The years have apparently fuzzied up some of the facts. Andy notes that this footage was shot in an empty warehouse in San Francisco, not in Palo Alto. We may have to go dust for fingerprints…]

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  • TomCross

    If you watch (youtube) the 20 minute documentary of Steve Jobs running NEXT at a retreat you’ll see a familiar face or 2 in the group from this ad. Interesting to read about the history and then seeing it on the old videos. Of course only the biggest nerds would notice these details…haha