Apple released this powerful iPad commerical today, which features a speech given by Robin Williams in the movie “Dead Poets Society.”
What I find interesting is this isn’t the first time Apple has thought about “Dead Poets Society” when creating commercials. Back in the late 90s, when Apple was trying to put together the Think Different campaign, Rob Siltanen, who was a major force in creating the campaign, was heavily influenced by the movie. In Siltanen’s own words:
I was always moved by the movie “Dead Poets Society,” starring Robin Williams, and particular pieces of the movie had made a major impact on me. The emotion and the context of the movie very much related to what I wanted to capture for Apple.
I quoted a few lines from “Dead Poets” and asked Steve if he’d seen the movie, and he said, “Of course I have. Robin Williams is a personal friend of mine.” I told Steve I would write something in a similar tone of voice, and we’d come back in a week.
I went back to the agency and worked non-stop day and night. I filled my journal with countless handwritten scripts. I wrote everything with the mindset it would be spoken by Robin Williams.
Unfortunately, the initial version of the Think Different commercial was not to Jobs’ liking:
We played the spot once, and when it finished, Jobs said, “It sucks! I hate it! It’s advertising agency shit! 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.
However, Jobs finally came around to the campaign and it went on to be one of the most successful in Apple’s history. It’s interesting that at the time they wanted to have Robin Williams read the “Crazy Ones” speech for the commercial, but he refused and they went with Richard Dreyfus instead. Now over 15 years later Robin Williams’ voice is being used in an Apple commercial.
Check out “The Real Story Behind Apple’s ‘Think Different’ Campaign” for the full story behind the campaign, it’s rather fascinating.
UPDATE: I was also reminded that Robin Williams now stars in the TV show “The Crazy Ones” who’s name is inspired by the Apple ad. So Williams and Apple have this strange continuing connection through the years.