Thursday, October 6, 2011

Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 777:
Body Language of Apple's
"1984" Macintosh Super Bowl Commercial

In this award winning 1984 Super Bowl XVIII commercial, Apple, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak used the dsytopian George Orwell Novel "Nineteen Eighty-Four" to their dramatic advantage. Body Language was a key element to its success. It was conceived by Lee Chow, Steve Hayden and Brent Thomas of Chiat/Day. Together with the director Ridley Scott, of Blade Runner fame, they made what has been named the greatest commercial of all time. It begins with people marching in unison, heads shaved or nearly shaved, dressed in drab prison like garb. Uniforms are of course in part, used as a tool of conformity. They aide in the taking away or minimizing the rights, needs, thoughts, creativity, desires, etc. of the individual. These drab outfits together with the synchronized marching, almost identical hair cuts and homogeneous, blackish-grey and dull-blue background of all those but the nameless heroin (performed by Anya Major) are all further examples of mirroring - dramatically adding to the anti-individually and group thought. Totalitarian leaders from the beginning of human history have used this principal to more easily bond and thus control the masses. Military leaders soon caught on. Of course, schools, companies and even scouting organizations employ this tool of control.

With the exception of Big Brother (performed by David Graham), the "Thought Police" and the athletic, blonde, boat rocking, screen-shattering heroin - all the "workers" have faces with the same "ten thousand yard staring" expressions. This far away look is often a nonverbal sign of acute stress reaction, dissociation, disengagement, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. The masked thought police have their faces completely covered. This anonymous form of a "costume" has advantages that playwrights, hangmen, criminals, sports teams and others have long used to their benefit. If you deny another the ability to "read" your face and emotions - it becomes much easier to inflict harm on them. 

Interestingly, the angry faced, Hitleresque, Big Brother is wearing two sets of glasses. This is a strong symbol for someone who REALLY is Metaphorically Myopic. Narrow vision equals narrow thinking - ergo "Tunnel Vision".

Our heroin is being chased by the thought police. She is the only clearly female person shown.  She is athletic. She is running. She is fast. She is beautiful. Her face is animated. She is colorful. With reddish-orange shorts,  with a cubist type color drawing of a Macintosh computer on the front of a white tank top, she is a brilliant, statement of individuality. She accomplishes her mission by destroying the screen, the message, as well as the connection Big Brother has with the masses. The worker bees all take on a dramatic expression of surprise with some transitioning to fear. Surprise is the most evanescent of all emotions, lasting only for a second or two - it is almost always is rapidly followed by a follow-up emotion - here it is fear, but it could be anger, embarrassment, joy, etc.

Many claim Apple wanted to use this commercial as a "visual metaphor" to pit themselves against IBM. IBM's nickname is "Big Blue". This sounds pretty close to "Big Brother" and IBM's dominance and reputation for orthodoxy makes this a convincing argument. Despite the entire Board of Directors voting against its use, Jobs and Wozniak continued to strongly support it. Wozniak even offered to personally pay for the cost of its airing during the 1984 Superbowl. It ended up of course being shown during the third quarter of the game. With one minor exception (Twin Falls, Idaho), this was the only time it has ever been broadcasted in a commercial spot - which greatly adds to its mystique. Many spoke about it more than Super Bowl XVIII (Who played in that one anyway?). Among other honors, it has been voted by Advertising Age as well as TV Guide as the Greatest commercial of all time. In 2007 it was voted as the best commercial in Super Bowl history. All this without even showing us the product. Wow!

"You can't connect the dots looking forward;
 you can only connect them looking backwards.
 So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
 You have to trust in something -
 your gut, 
 This approach has never let me down,
 and it has made all the difference in my life."