Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, anti-aparteid activist, and symbol of freedom who passed away Thursday, is currently the focus of Apple’s website. There, right front-and-center, is a photo of President Mandela in black and white, with Apple’s signature font and overall style. A fitting presentation considering that the late Apple Founder and CEO Steve Jobs tried to land Mandela to be the subject of the “Think Different” campaign.
By way of the great blog Cult Of Mac, according to Ken Segall, the man who came up with the name “iMac” for the computer, in his 2012 book Insanely Simple, Jobs was so enamored with Nelson Mandela, he had the ad agency working on the campaign at the time to call Mandela’s representatives in South Africa in an effort to seal a deal for his promotional effort. There was just one hitch: Mandela was then President Of South Africa.
He talked about what an extraordinary person Mandela was and what an honor it would be to have him appear in our campaign. This wasn’t some mercenary plot to create more buzz for Apple. Steve genuinely wanted to pay tribute to a person he really admired. Only one problem. At that time, Mandela was president of South Africa.
Through his people, Mandela respectfully declined.
But Steve Jobs wasn’t giving up. Knowing that Mandela and Bill Clinton were good friends, and feeling that since he provided a place for Clinton to stay when he visited Northern California, Jobs reached out to President Clinton for help.
Mandela again declined, but did say he might do it six months after he left office.
I am trying to find evidence if Jobs met Mandela in person. If you know of this, please contact me.