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A Look Back At The First iPod Commercial

by Sean P. Aune | March 10, 2010March 10, 2010 1:28 pm PST

On Oct. 23, 2001, Steve Jobs unveiled the first version of the now ubiquitous iPod.  It was a far cry from what we are used to seeing these days, and so was the first commercial.

Although the commercial was radically different than the ones we see these days for the iPod line, it is actually a stunningly effective message.  The iPod was such a revolutionary device that Apple had to find a way to explain what its concept was quickly and efficiently.  Showing a man listening to a song in the recognizable iTunes (although the version now looks ancient) and continuing the same song on his iPod was probably the most succinct imagery I have ever seen in a commercial for telling you what something does without having to say a word.

first-gen-ipodThere were a couple things working against the iPod in those early days:

  1. MP3s hadn’t hit that large of an audience yet.
  2. It was Mac only, which made the initial audience fairly small.
  3. If I had seen that commercial even one more time, I would have personally beat Steve Jobs with one of those new fangled iPods.

You couldn’t hardly turn on a TV during that commercial’s run without seeing it.  It was everywhere, and it actually made me hate the product for a couple of years.  Irrational?  Of course, but I was so sick of seeing that guy dance out of his apartment that I was ready to scream.

I remember my father asking me once during the one trillionth viewing of the commercial what the heck it was, and what was it did.  (apparently the obvious explanation still din’t work for him as he wasn’t aware what an MP3 was)  I explained in great detail what it was and why it was doomed to failure: The fact it was running on FireWire, that it was Mac-only and so on, I said it was pretty much doomed.

… Okay, so I can’t always predict everything correctly!

All that said, it is still fascinating to look at the evolution of not only the device itself, but also the advertising.  Which do you prefer, the more message driven ads or the ones we are more used to with the dancing silhouettes?

Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...