Apple's new iPad ad leaves creative audiences feeling… flat

The trumpet is the first thing to be crushed. Then the industrial compressor flattens a row of paint cans, straps on a piano and levels what appears to be a marble bust. In a final act of destruction, he pops the eyes out of a yellow ball emoji.

When the compressor rises, it reveals Apple's latest product: the updated iPad Pro.

Tim Cook, Apple's chief executive, released the ad, called “Crush,” on Tuesday after the company held an event to announce new tablets. “Introducing the new iPad Pro: the thinnest product we've ever created,” Cook wrote, adding, “Imagine all the things it will be used to create.”

For decades, Apple has been the beacon of the creative class. He won over designers, musicians and film editors with the promise that his products would help them “Think Different”.

But some creators took a different message from the one-minute iPad ad. Instead of seeing a device that could help them create, as Cook suggested, they saw a metaphor for how Big Tech profited from their work by squashing or co-opting the artistic tools that humanity has used for centuries.

The image was particularly unnerving at a time when artists fear that generative artificial intelligence, which can write poetry and create films, could take away their jobs.

“It's unusual in its cruelty,” said Justin Ouellette, a software designer in Portland, Oregon, who does animation and is a longtime user of Apple products. “Many people see this as a betrayal of his commitment to human creative expression and a tone deafness to the pressures these artists feel right now.”

Apple did not respond to requests for comment.

It was the latest in a series of recent promotional blunders by a company widely considered a marketing juggernaut. Marketing of the Apple Vision Pro, released in January, has struggled to help the device break through to many customers. Last year, Apple was criticized for making an embarrassing sketch featuring Octavia Spencer as Mother Earth as she dominated a company meeting about the company's efforts to become carbon neutral by 2030.

Apple has been considered an advertising visionary since the 1980s. His “1984” Super Bowl commercial introducing the Macintosh computer is among the most famous commercials ever made. The commercial, developed by the Chiat/Day agency, featured an actor throwing a bat through a screen that projected the face of a “Big Brother” figure that was intended to be a metaphor for IBM.

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 after a 12-year absence, he sought to reclaim the magic of marketing. Together he and Lee Clow, the advertising creative behind the “1984” commercial, developed the “Think Different” campaign. It pioneered the famous “Get a Mac” commercials, featuring a Mac and a PC, and the original iPhone commercial, which showed people in classic movies and television shows picking up a phone and saying “Hi.” .

Apple's marketing presented its products as easy to use. It presented PCs and Android phones as devices for business executives working on spreadsheets, while Macs and iPhones were tools for editors, photographers and writers.

But Apple's advertising has been spotty over the past dozen or so years. It tore up a 2012 campaign that showcased its Apple Store “geniuses” on planes. Critics dismissed the next commercial, “Designed by Apple in California,” as “lame.”

In the wake of these setbacks, Mr. Cook shifted oversight of advertising from Phil Schiller, the company's longtime marketing chief, to Tor Myhren, former president and chief creative officer of Grey, the ad agency that created Baby E-Trade.

Under the leadership of Myhren, who joined the group in 2016, Apple developed some of its ads with its own creative team and others in collaboration with an external agency, Media Arts Lab. It was recognized at the Cannes Lions Awards, l leading event in the advertising industry, for an AirPods commercial called “Bounce,” which showed a man jumping off the sidewalk while listening to music. Last year, Apple was named Creative Brand of the Year for its “RIP Leon” ad, in which a man sent a message on his iPhone saying that a lizard in his care had died, only to delete it when the lizard suddenly it would roll off its back.

Mr. Myhren and Media Arts Lab did not respond to requests for comment on who was behind the “Crush” commercial.

Michael J. Miraflor, chief brand officer at Hannah Grey, a venture capital firm, said on commercial “1984”.

“It's not even boring or banal,” Miraflor wrote. “Does it make me feel…bad? Disappointed?”

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