Contrary to what the past decade’s TV commercials may indicate, Apple’s advertising hasn’t always been so tepid and generic. Before the era of the much-lampooned “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” commercials, which starred Justin Long as the chilled out Apple computer and John Hodgman as the shamefully square PC, the company cultivated an iconoclastic image. Who could forget the radical 1984 commercial where Apple slammed 1980s conformity, or the “Think Different” campaign, where Jobs waxed lyrical about the “crazy ones, misfits, rebels and rule breakers?” No surprise, then, that Apple decided to burnish its rebel credentials by hiring none other than the father of gonzo journalism to star in one of its TV spots.
Above, you can view Hunter S. Thompson’s brief “Power is” Apple commercial. The ad seems to date to some point in the 1990s; at least, that’s what the whirlwind of cuts, oddly angled shots, shaky camerawork, and edgy guitar riffs seem to suggest. The commercial’s premise appears to be that Thompson both knows what power is, and how to use it to stick it to The Man.
Presumably, simply having Thompson in the ad gave Apple enough countercultural cachet, since he never mentions either the company or its product. This may have been the result of previous grievances: according to legend, the journalist had received a Mac from the editors of the San Francisco Examiner in the mid-1980s, in hopes that the gadget would help him transmit his perennially late copy to the paper on time. Despite its many features, however, the Mac couldn’t stand up to Thompson’s temper (he was known to lose his cool when dealing with electronics). In a fit of rage, Thompson blew the machine to smithereens with his shotgun, and sent the remains to his editors. Power, indeed.