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The History of Funny Ads | Apple MacBook Air

What’s your favorite commercial? I bet it’s a funny one.

Photo by Apple

On the narrow list of universal languages — is laughter. And if you haven’t noticed, today’s advertisers are producing more comedic campaigns than ever before. In this post, we’ll look back and discuss the famous 2008 Apple MacBook Air commercial, and how it sparked a successful parodic ad from one of their largest competitors.

In 2008, Apple disrupted the laptop industry when it released the MacBook Air, the world’s thinnest laptop at the time. The 13.3-inch laptop measures 0.16 inches at its thinnest point and only 0.76 inches at its thickest point. To spread the word, Apple did what Apple does. For the first official MacBook Air commercial, they demonstrated product compactness by showing the laptop fits inside a plain manilla envelope.

Apple’s 2008 MacBook Air commercial.

Per usual, Apple effectively educates and hooks its viewers. Within 30 seconds you already know you’ll go broke buying it. However, soon after the commercial first aired — Lenovo — one of Apple’s largest competitors, clapped back with a parodic ad for their ThinkPad X300 commercial. In it, they highlight Apple’s idea to ditch vital hardware features in order to achieve the ultra-thin design. And of course, all the extra dongles you’ll need.

Lenovo’s 2008 ThinkPad X300 vs MacBook Air commercial.

Sacrificing functionality for design, Lenovo saw an opportunity to both expose the MacBook’s flaws and showcase the ThinkPad X300. The ad closes by showing that the X300 is thin enough to fit in a similar manilla envelope, even with all of the added components that Apple removed. Thanks to the familiar parodic tone, viewers can clearly distinguish the advantages of the X300 over the MacBook Air. Clever.

“A parody often leverages elements of irony in that multiple interpretations are possible. An audience member must engage in a complex interpretive act — using cues such as comic intonations or the use of verbal or visual hyperbole — to understand the properly facetious meaning.”
- Journal of Consumer Psychology

I love this quote — it makes me hard for advertising. So for what it’s worth (and because I’m writing on one), I whipped up my own MacBook Air commercial with a slight twist!

My version of Apple’s 2008 MacBook Air commercial (Made on my MacBook Air)

What are your thoughts on parodic ads? Discuss in the comments.

1 FOR THE ROAD: Here’s my current favorite commercial. I’ll write a dedicated post about it in the future. For now, you can follow me here on Medium and YouTube to keep up with my thoughts on ad humor and mobile filmmaking.

See you next time!