As the personal computer industry has grown, so has its advertising clout. Gone are the days when Apple's owners begged and borrowed the $25,000 necessary for the company's first color ad in Scientific American. In 1984 Apple Computer Inc. slated an ad budget of over $100 million.
While most computer companies still advertise heavily in trade and consumer magazines, they are most visible on TV-where saturation schedules during news programs and major sports events have become the rule for product introductions and for spurring sales at Christmas time. During the first wave of TV commercials in the early 1980s, the emphasis was on allaying computer fears by enlisting celebrity spokespersons who were familiar and safe. Bill Cosby, Dick Cavett, Alan Alda, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Isaac Asimov and the ghost of Charlie Chaplin have all extolled the personal computer's virtues to the masses.
As potential microcomputer users have grown more numerous and sophisticated, TV ads have shifted to feature wars (touting the technical powers of their wares) or toward image building (grafting vague or fantastic attributes onto humble hardware and software). Now and again, the occasional computer commercial excels with a funny commentary on the state of the market and the industry.
The hard sell: If comedian Bill Cosby (top row, left) could pitch string beans and gelatin desserts, why not Texas Instruments home computers? Former talk show host Dick Cavett (middle) never admitted to computer expertise, just a love of Apples. Kaypro's commercial about the pitfalls of system pricing (bottom) drew praise and awards for its satirical thrust. IBM licensed the Little Tramp character (above) from the estate of Charlie Chaplain to make its personal computers appealing.
Return to Table of Contents | Previous Article | Next Article