Apple Unpolished: The Ad that “Crushed the Soul”

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It was a misstep to say the least. What Apple intended to be a glorious introduction to their thinnest ever, AI-powered iPad Pro, became a crushing defeat for the ad that was demolished across social media, sparking negative reaction from both creatives and consumers alike.

The ad that caused “disgust” and was described as “destructive” and “sinister,” shows a hydraulic press systematically flattening iconic objects used in creative pursuits – artistic items like books, musical instruments, paint cans, cameras, a sculpture, even smiley faces. When the crushing concludes, the hydraulic press slowly lifts as an image of the iPad Pro emerges.

The idea of technology crushing creative tools comes at a particularly sensitive time when creators have already been assaulted by concerns of AI bulldozing their crafts and careers. The Big Brother concept mistakenly promoted in the Apple ad struck an unpopular chord already sounded in the creative community, and unleashed ire among consumers.

British Actor, Hugh Grant, likened it to “the destruction of the human experience.” Said Ian Heartfield, co-founder and chief creative officer of the agency New Commercial Arts, “Given Apple’s market and cultural domination … crushing beautiful and inspiring creative tools seems insensitive and gives easy ammunition to the haters.”

In another ironic twist, the ad was released on the 40th anniversary of Apple’s celebrated 1984 Super Bowl ad, which purposely contrasted its own identity with George Orwell’s book named for the same year – a book which portrayed an oppressive futuristic society dominated by ubiquitous technology. Apple’s 1984 ad instead offered a hopeful message about technology in a world where it was considered neither fearful nor the enemy. 

To many, Apple’s latest ad presented the antithesis, a visual where Big Tech and AI pose a threat to all that’s intrinsic to human creativity. Others point out the concept was merely a take on popular TikTok trends showing users crushing items and posting the experience online. 

In any event, Apple has graciously conceded error. “Our goal is to always celebrate the myriad of ways users express themselves and bring their ideas to life through iPad,” said Tor Myhren, Apple marketing vice president. “We missed the mark with this video and we’re sorry.” Apple has rescinded plans to air the spot on TV.

Others suggest the publicity brought by such widespread opposition may have drawn more awareness to the product than a typical ad rollout, perhaps resulting in unintended benefits. While data based on consumer reaction to the spot was overwhelmingly negative, it remains to be seen what the ultimate effect will have on sales. Read more about the ad’s aftermath here.

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