That Much-Despised Apple Ad Could Be More Disturbing Than It Looks

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If you haven’t yet seen the new and already-infamous Apple ad — the one in which a giant mechanical compactor violently crushes a bunch of musical instruments, books, sculptures, art supplies and toys, turning them into an iPad Pro — then Apple’s executives are probably happy. They’ve seen the headlines: “Apple iPad Ad Is Bad”; “Why the Stink of That Bad, Bad iPad Ad Won’t Go Away”; “Apple’s New iPad Ad Is a Neat Metaphor for the End of the World.” They’ve seen the mocking posts on social media. They’re aware that Hugh Grant has weighed in. (“The destruction of the human experience,” he wrote on X. “Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”) In response, Apple has done what it hardly ever does: It apologized. “We missed the mark with this video, and we’re sorry,” one of its vice presidents said. Apple won’t air the ad on TV. It wants to move on, and it wants you to do the same.

But I can’t quite move on, and I’m sure I’m not alone. The ad — titled “Crush!” — is simply too good. I don’t mean that it’s clever, wise or uplifting. I mean that, like many Apple products, it was clearly made with exacting, no-expenses-spared attention to detail. The slow-motion, high-resolution focus on each object’s destruction — the way we watch up close as they bend before breaking, as if resisting the inevitable — has a visceral effect that’s hard to shake. The electronics company LG made essentially the same ad in 2008, as an advertisement for its Renoir camera phone, but it lacked that Apple touch. Unfortunately for Apple, “Crush!” achieves every ad maker’s goal: It imprints in the mind’s eye.

Just as transfixing is the real-world back story it implies. Picture it: A team of experienced, well-paid professionals spent months refining a strategy. Ideas were pitched, culled, refined, mocked up. Eventually, after countless steps, a winner emerged, and somehow it was this. They could have depicted all that gear being cheerfully shrunken and squeezed into one iPad, awaiting creative fun. Instead, they went with just demolishing it all. Did no one point out that people are increasingly wary of tech companies’ impact on the creative professions? That people have soured on Silicon Valley’s apparent desire to monetize human creativity in as many ways as possible, from extractive streaming arrangements to harvesting human-made art as A.I.-training material? Did no one sense how bad this would look? It’s not just that the ad is a car crash — it’s that the people who poured so much work and money into something so off-putting appear to have thought they were orchestrating a parade.

It wasn’t so long ago that tech companies could advertise by telling us about new possibilities. Whatever their flaws, they really were injecting genuine novelty into the human experience: Suddenly you could carry thousands of songs in your pocket, take a decent picture on your phone and instantly share it, make a video call to someone on the other side of the planet. It wasn’t hard for ads to set an optimistic tone; they simply showed people using new products in their daily lives and having new flavors of fun doing it.





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