The Real Story Behind Apple’s “Think Different” Campaign

Writing for Forbes, Siltanen & Partners chairman and chief creative officer, Rob Siltanen:

It was a billboard campaign that had simple black and white photographs of revolutionary people and events. One ad had a photo of Einstein. Another had a photo of Thomas Edison. Another had a photo of Ghandi. Another had the famous photo of flowers placed in gun barrels during the protest of the Vietnam War. At the top of each image was the rainbow-colored Apple logo and the words “Think Different.” Nothing else.

The creator of the work was a brilliant art director named Craig Tanimoto. […]

TBWA/Chiat/Day Chief Creative Officer, Lee Clow pitched it to Jobs:

Jobs was quiet during the pitch, but he seemed intrigued throughout, and now it was time for him to talk. He looked around the room filled with the “Think Different” billboards and said, “This is great, this is really great … but I can’t do this. People already think I’m an egotist, and putting the Apple logo up there with all these geniuses will get me skewered by the press.” The room was totally silent. The “Think Different” campaign was the only campaign we had in our bag of tricks, and I thought for certain we were toast. Steve then paused and looked around the room and said out loud, yet almost as if to his own self, “What am I doing? Screw it. It’s the right thing. It’s great. Let’s talk tomorrow.” In a matter of seconds, right before our very eyes, he had done a complete about-face.

Siltanen wrote the original "Crazy Ones" script, which Jobs hated:

[…] Lee put the Apple TV assignment out to various copywriters within the agency and brought in a few noted freelancers, too. One of the writers given the assignment was Ken Segall. Ken was a highly gifted writer/creative director who was hired shortly after we won the Apple business. Ken had worked with Jobs in the past, and Clow convinced Ken to leave his job at an agency in New York (Y&R) and work for us in Los Angeles on the Apple business. Upon Ken’s arrival in L.A., he was quickly given the task to work on the TV script along with all the other writers. One day, Ken came to my office and said, “Jobs has seen a ton of scripts, and he’s gone full circle …we’re moving ahead with your ‘Crazy Ones’ script. I made some tweaks. I hope you don’t mind.”

There is a version where Jobs narrates the Crazy Ones himself.