Skip to main content

HTC copies Apple’s iconic 1984 commercial to advertise their iPhone copy


HTC’s launch of the One A9 has caught the attention of many. The company insists that the latest mid-tier device isn’t an iPhone copy, despite the fact that — from almost every angle — it looks like one. Having spent time with it, we agree in many ways. Even if it is, the very fact it runs Android 6.0 is a big enough differentiating factor for many consumers. Still, the Taiwanese manufacturer isn’t helping itself by releasing its latest advertising campaign.

The latest full length ad, named ‘Be Brilliant’ has a clear message: Be Different. Sound familiar?

The video tells you that, in this ‘Big Brother’ world where everything is the same, you should aspire to be unique, be loud, be inspired, be free and be brilliant. However, the message bares a striking resemblance to famous 1984 ad produced by Apple for the Macintosh back in the 80s…just like the phone resembles the iPhone.

With several purposeful shots showing the main character kicking apple’s there’s a not-so-subtle suggestion that Apple is the new normal. Thirty years ago,  IBM was ‘Big Brother’, and Apple was the rebel company doing things differently. Now — with the iPhone being the most popular smartphone model on the market — the tables have turned. The iPhone is the new ‘norm’ in many ways, and is what the HTC rebel in the video is going against.

The phone is an OS away from being a direct iPhone copy, and the ad is a hammer’s throw away from being a copy of one of the most iconic ads of all time. There’s one rebel, running against a sea of uniformed, grey emotionless characters. Unlike the Apple commercial, more rebels join the race to become free. As a reminder, here’s Apple’s 1984 commercial:

HTC isn’t the only Android OEM to use the 1984 Orwellian theme to advertise its products. Motorola made a tablet commercial a few years ago with direct references to George Orwell’s book.

Clearly then, ‘be unique’ and ‘go against the flow’ are strong advertising messages. They say more about who you can be as a person or what your identity is than they do about the actual products being sold. Apple’s 1984 commercial didn’t include a single reference to the Macintosh it was selling. It didn’t show what the machine looks like, or what it can do. It just said “we’re making something amazing and unique, and you’re going to want it”. HTC and Motorola departed from that tactic, but the message is exactly the same, as is the setting in which the story is told.

HTC is trying to show that it’s unique and doing things differently. Ironically, it’s doing that by adopting a widely-used message and releasing a product that closely resembles an iPhone.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel


  1. Prem Patel (@prem_4tw) - 7 years ago

    Omg that’s a straight up copy.

  2. Prem Patel (@prem_4tw) - 7 years ago

    If Apple is going to sue anyone they should sue HTC for literally creating a shittier iPhone

  3. Robert Hellmundt - 7 years ago

    dumbest spot i’ve ever seen, having nearly everything a really dumb spot should include:
    parkour, senseless running hero, girl with unexplainable affection for the senseless running hero.
    the only thing missing are exploding color bombs without any reason.

    well done htc, you are not completely retarded!

  4. Jonny - 7 years ago

    I can’t imagine the amount of mental hoops that need to be jumped through to not see the irony (or whatever is the appropriate word) in sending out a message to be unique while copying another company’s ad.

    • ericisking - 7 years ago

      I know a few guys who hate Apple, think that hating Apple is a mark of their superior intelligence and taste, and they really don’t see it. They think that anyone who sees this as a copy is just an Apple fanboy. They also genuinely believe that buying an Android phone marks them as ‘different’, the exact opposite of the ‘sameness’ and ‘copying’ perpetrated by Apple, so this ad speaks to them. After all, only 80% of people in the world use Android, so you have to be a real rebel to join that club.

  5. Slogan #1: HTC. You Be Different, let Us copy everyone. Slogan #2: HTC. Don’t Innovate, Duplicate.

  6. csiegell - 7 years ago

    Htc took a step back with this phone features wise and a complete copy design wise. However , even know the commercial is a complete copy it’s very well done and probably exactly what they need for the gullible and cheapskate USA consumers.

  7. Graham J - 7 years ago

    I use iPhones and Macs because of their operating systems. Copying the box is missing the point.

    • ericisking - 7 years ago

      True, but if you’re the kind of person who’s shallow and superficial enough to think that buying an Android phone makes you ‘different’ and ‘cool’, then copying the box is entirely the point.

  8. Roberto (@RSFCordon) - 7 years ago

    Horrible commercial BTW.

  9. sardonick - 7 years ago

    If being “different” means being a no sock wearing hippie, I’ll go with nay nay. Funny commercial though, I can’t see who they can claim it’s not a copy. I’m sure someone will defend it though.

  10. aaronh - 7 years ago

    I can’t believe this is a full budgeted ad by a major ad agency. Aside from strongly referencing the 1984 ad (which is fine as a “tweak,” I suppose), it looks SO amateurish. If you had told me this was something made by a high school or college kid Android fan I’d say they did a good job. As something done by professionals for actual advertising? So unprofessional.

  11. thegreatwheeze - 7 years ago

    Yeah, don’t you know that the biggest appeal of owning an Apple is letting other people know you own an Apple?!?! I like making superficial choices, but not being reminded they’re superficial. Thanks for ruining it HTC…

  12. jmiko2015 - 7 years ago

    …they actually got my attention by mentioning high definition audio.

  13. RP - 7 years ago

    At this point I have to believe HTC has its tongue firmly in cheek and is having a little fun trolling Apple. They certainly have gotten more press about this phone than most of their other more recent phones.

  14. Daniel Heller - 7 years ago

    It also seems like they’re copying parts of the movie “Hair” (worse music though):

  15. Jim Hassinger - 7 years ago

    They won’t sue. HTC will sell a couple thousand phones and that’s the end of them.

  16. Richard Gleaves - 7 years ago

    Cargo-cult advertising … is that a term? Maybe it should be.

  17. Bill Moore - 7 years ago

    Ummm… no. Not even close. You apple fanboys really do have your noses up your asses don’t you.

    • ericisking - 7 years ago

      Wow, you really don’t see it, do you? The human mind is fascinating.

    • Cyrus (@CheesyMoi) - 7 years ago

      Not even close… in the level of craft, maybe.
      Be different vs Think different?
      “Be” is all superficial. “Think” is much better and leads to greater things.

  18. airmanchairman - 7 years ago

    Be different. Be unique. Stop copying 1984 ads…

  19. KenC - 7 years ago

    Motorola did a Xoom tablet lemming-like ad about 5 years ago.

    • ericisking - 7 years ago

      It sounds like a slightly pathetic technique, but the sad truth is that it is an effective marketing technique. Ironically, the same people who are always going on about how Apple brainwashes people with voodoo marketing, are the people who get goosebumps when they watch this ad which tells them how different and independent they are. Of course, that’s also what Apple was doing, in the original ad……and it works, it’s sad, but it works….

  20. evilneuro - 7 years ago

    BEARS, not bares!

  21. Ice Cowboy - 7 years ago

    Re: “Clearly then, ‘be unique’ and ‘go against the flow’ are strong advertising messages.”

    In both the HTC and Moto commercials the stronger message is “Buy our product and get laid/find love.” Sex and romance (and escaping social isolation/avoiding being ostracized) are the strongest advertising messages of all and generally have been….