That Ol’ Time UI

Parents: The Anti-DrugIn a weekly email question-and-answer column, NY Times advertising reporter Stuart Elliot addressed a reader’s question about this online ad for the “Parents: The Anti-Drug” campaign. The reader remarked on the fact that the ad was “designed to recall the display from the early Macintosh computers,” and wondered whether it was meant to be “lifeless enough to drive away teens, but familiar to the eyes of young parents like myself, who grew up with the Mac and its display quirks.”

Parents: The Anti-Drug

Elliott contacted the agency responsible for the ad, New York’s OgilvyOne, who confirmed the conscious emulation of the Macintosh look and feel. Elliott quoted the agency’s creative director, Mach Arom, saying, “The design — or arguably, the anti-design — was meant to create a noticeable alternative to the promotional, whiz-bang advertising one usually finds on the Web.” He goes on to say that, “In terms of the computer interface as inspiration for the art direction, we designed the ads to live in the world parents are familiar with.”

My reaction was, “Wow.”

The ad does not in fact evoke “early Macintosh computers,” but rather what you might call middle-era Macs. Specifically, it apes the ‘platinum’ look and feel that debuted with Mac OS 8 about six years ago, and over a dozen years after the Mac was introduced.

Of course, that’s splitting hairs. Whether these ads recall an interface from six years ago or eighteen years ago doesn’t much matter to most advertising audiences — if it’s before 1999, it’s all ancient history. What’s notable about this ad is that it’s another of those “Whoa, what?” moments that periodically remind me that I am over thirty years old now. Though the days when the user interface for my computer actually looked like this ad don’t really seem so long ago, they are in fact receding further every minute.


One Comment

  1. Interestingly, I am sitting at Ogilvy One, where that ad was created, at this moment, reading your site from my Mac OS9 computer with that very ‘platinum’ design.

    I’ve worked at a lot of companies that haven’t updated their Macs from OS9 yet. I think the Quark delay and the simple cost of updating all the software to be OS X compatible is still causing this. My personal studio has been in OS X and Win XP for ages now, but big companies just don’t find the benefit in keeping up to date.

    The art director of this ad, although I don’t him or her, is probably reflecting the view of the interface world here, although it’s not a view share by many users.

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