Apple ends Mac event with ultimate nerd cameo by John Hodgman as the iconic PC

By Jeff Beer

If you watched November 10’s Apple event, there was a moment that was like seeing an old friend.

Or at least the Apple equivalent to a Marvel end credits scene.

As CEO Tim Cook signed off from today’s Apple Event, all of a sudden there he was. PC. Or more specifically, John Hodgman reprising his iconic role as the nerdy PC from the brand’s long-running “Get A Mac” campaign, which ended in 2009.

Up until the last, oh two minutes, the event’s biggest news was the first Mac computers that use Apple’s own M1 processor, giving them more power and battery life. But then we got the familiar white backdrop, and Twitter immediately lit up with “HODGMAN!!!” cries.

Curiously, Justin Long’s “Mac” character was nowhere to be seen, but Hodgman was always the comic relief in the 66 ads that ran between 2006 and 2009. Was this latest appearance really all that funny? No. But the real entertainment was in the surprise, the collective “Hey! It’s that guy” of it. The PC versus Mac ads has rated as one of AdAge‘s Top 15 Campaigns of the 21st Century. It was so popular that in 2008 Microsoft made a whole ad campaign aimed at specifically declawing the stereotypes that Hodgman’s character represented.

Is it a bit thirsty to bring back a crowd favorite, right at the end of the virtual event, to give fans a parting shot of commercial adrenaline? Maybe. But it’s a sly strategy, particularly if this is it and not the start of another campaign. Keep it scarce, and the gag retains its value. In a pure attention aspect, this will likely get Apple more earned media than almost any of the tech it unveiled. We love the comfort of nostalgia.

In uncertain times—like, say, during a pandemic—people have flocked to the familiar. Here, in Hodgman’s PC, Apple knows it has served up the definition of commercial comfort food.

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