, Apple Computer
, in a risky gambit
to generate a buzz
about its new Macintosh
, spent its entire advertising budget
(for both production
costs) on one artsy
(and now considered historic
Drawing from the current hype surrounding the arrival for the year 1984 (especially as current conditions related to those in George Orwell's famous novel "1984," which examined the concepts of authority and freedom), the commercial (directed, incidentally, by Ridley Scott) depicted a dark and dismal world, where everyone marched in lockstep and received their knowledge from one authoritarian source via a viewscreen. Into this world comes an athletic runner: female, carrying a sledgehammer, and apparently not wearing a sports bra. She launches her tool toward the viewscreen in an act of open rebellion, destroying it and opening up new possibilities for its once-captive viewers. Fade out over the multicolored Apple logo.
The commercial was aired only once, during the Super Bowl, for maximum effect (from this one ad, by the way, comes the now-familiar stream of new and well-hyped advertisements we see with each new Super Bowl). Because it was not only aired once, but meant to air only once (well, I guess they had no money left), I believe this makes it a prime candidate for the shortest-lived ad campaign.
Of course, one would argue, the stream of similar one-shot commercials pitched by Internet companies during the 2000 Super Bowl should tie for this honor. But I feel the Apple spot, given its lasting effect (and given that the company is still around and hawking Macs), is in a class by itself. Note also that there are a host of commercials that have only had one airing because either they incurred the wrath of the viewers or were removed as the result of cease and desist orders for one legal reason or another. Pizza Hut, for example, had a 1998 commercial pulled because the Mighty Mighty Bosstones claimed that a song used in the spot represented a case of copyright infringement.