Opinion: Why Apple’s iPad ad hit such a nerve

Why Apple’s iPad ad hit such a nerve

Apple is apologizing: that ad for the new iPad Pro with the all-powerful hydraulic press squeezing every element of culture and human experience into one wafer-thin device may have been a tad ill thought out.

The ad, set to an old Sonny and Cher song, “All I Ever Need Is You,” seems to celebrate the destruction of human creativity, as we see a piano, a sculptured bust, all manner of art supplies, cameras, a television and more, being violently crushed.

After the ad sparked a swift backlash, Tor Myhren, Apple’s vice president of marketing, said: “We missed the mark with this video and we’re sorry.”

What he didn’t say, though he didn’t have to, was: “We’ve made our point.”

The point being made is that all these elements of art and culture can be condensed into just one light-as-a-feather item you can carry around like a paper plate.

Well, maybe “squashed” is more accurate than “condensed.” When you condense something you more or less preserve its natural state. When you squash, crunch or crush something, you absolutely obliterate it.

Certainly many people from the world of the arts did not embrace the wholesome message Apple CEO Tim Cook used in a post on X to describe the new tech marvel: “Just imagine all the things it will be used to create.”

Generally speaking, creativity does not necessitate demolition— except, perhaps, in cases like Pete Townsend shattering his Rickenbacker guitar on his amplifier at the end of a Who concert.

Actors, directors, writers and academics expressed outrage at the Apple ad. It hit a nerve, perhaps because many of them have been compelled to protests and labor strikes due to a combination of higher costs of living, corporate consolidations, layoffs, diminishing outlets for paying jobs in the arts, all accompanied by visions of a future where every one of them is replaced by a computer-generated version of themselves.

I liked the sarcasm of screenwriter Ed Solomon’s post on X: “Who needs human life and everything in life that makes it worth living? Dive into this digital simulacrum and give us your soul. Sincerely, Apple.”

That was not the message Apple intended to convey, was it? Apple’s intent was surely to pursue its raison d’etre: Use advances in technology to make every aspect of life easier for humans to accomplish (and Apple to monetize.)

And there’s more than a fair chance Apple will achieve its goal. Tech advances almost always find avid consumers. Now they’ve seen this extra thin iPad Pro do its thing.

Surely they will want one as soon as it reaches the market. As the saying goes, you can never be too rich or too thin, right?

But the ad only further alarms much of the thoughtful world, already on edge due to advancements in artificial intelligence, which threaten creatives — as well mankind at large — in ways even its most ardent purveyors don’t seem to fully fathom.  Will we all wind up players in the ultimate ironic episode of “The Twilight Zone?” Conquered by our own creation?

Given that ongoing uncertainty and trepidation, the Apple ad is not merely tone deaf, it’s stone deaf. As in, it feels like it is relegating human achievement to the Stone Age: Forget all that music, art, literature. “All I ever need is you,” Apple.

That accompanying song is a 1971 No. 1 hit (perhaps not the greatest example of human creativity, but still) that plays over images of paint cans exploding and musical instruments splintering to dust. In the ad, it plays less like a jaunty little love song and more like a jaunty little threat.

We’ll synthesize Sonny and Cher for you: “Some men follow rainbows, I am told… all I ever need is you.”

The ad’s message is loud and clear: “Screw the rainbows, buy Apple.”