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Creative Creative Works Apple

Adland hates Apple’s new iPad ad. Has the criticism gone too far?


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

May 9, 2024 | 11 min read

Industry commentators have been taking to social media to share their thoughts on the tech giant’s latest spot. And they’re not holding back.

Apple's ad

Apple's divisise ad campaign / Apple

Yesterday, Apple released a new ad to promote the launch of its 13-inch iPad Pro. Set to All I Ever Need is You by Sonny & Cher, the spot shows a range of artistic items such as musical instruments, paint tins and sculptures being crushed by a huge hydraulic press.

The reaction online from people within or adjacent to the advertising industry has been thick and fast. Overwhelmingly, they argue that it appears Apple is highlighting how the rise of new technologies is pulverizing human-led creativity. On the other hand, some commentators have argued that it simply shows how we have the whole world at our fingertips through our phones and computers. (You can judge for yourself.)

One prominent advertising industry creative who posted that she was in favor of the ad has received over 90 comments, most of them angry in tone and not necessarily conducive to constructive debate. When approached by The Drum to comment on the furor, she declined due to how out of hand the trolling had become.

The ‘pile-on’ attitude, with sexist undertones, has done little to add to what could have been an interesting conversation about a divisive bit of advertising. Creativity in all forms is subjective, after all.

So what does all of this say about how, as an industry, we voice our opinions on work that doesn’t resonate with us? We asked some experts to weigh in.

Jerry Daykin, client-side media consultant and WFA ambassador: “I’ve had 50,000 views and over 1,000 interactions on my Tweet suggesting the whole thing could be resolved by playing it in reverse. They’re pretty distinctly divided between the advertising and creative community who thinks it’s a massive fail and the strict Apple loyalists or crypto bros who think we’re all stupid for not understanding the premise.

“Like most things, the reality is probably in the middle. It’s an OK advert that’ll probably work fine, but could just have been a lot better and conscious. It is a cautionary moment for Apple, which has gone from being the creative industry upstart to the dominant corporate force, but the main lesson is probably not to get lost in social media echo chambers.”

James Cross, chief creative officer and founder, Meanwhile: “It is brilliant to see ‘Advertising Twitter’ spring back to life, and all because of a wonderful piece of film that is probably the best of the year so far.

“Apple is doing what it does better than just about anyone; an exquisitely beautiful product demo. *Chef’s kiss.*

“But, it seems Advertising Twitter has forgotten how to behave. The reaction to good friends voicing delight has been extreme and frankly bonkers. The metaphorical compression of these tools into a single device has also been (clearly mis-)construed as the literal destruction of creative tools forcibly submitting to Apple’s ‘thinnest iPad yet.’

“I don’t get, or even believe, some of the outrage. The ad is, clearly, ‘big things made small.’ A simple analogy for ordinary punters, AKA consumers. So think about this, my grumbling colleagues; just like the camera/microphone/calculator/laptop/newspaper/satnav/calorie counter/TV/stereo that each of us carry around in our pockets (you know that iPhone thing?) it is still smaller than the new iPad and has never replaced your trumpet or paintbrushes. AI won’t either.

“Get a grip.”

Tamryn Kerr, co-founder and chief creative officer, Hijinks: “I think the reaction to this ad is totally over the top and the subsequent Twitter pile-on is completely out of order. Given the AI doom and gloom in the ad industry, I can understand the sensitivity.

“However, like 9.43 million other people, I subscribe to the @HydraulicPressChannel on YouTube. It’s one of many channels that prides itself on squashing literally everything. So, my read on this was that it was borrowing from culture, not killing creativity. Perhaps the ad industry needs to get out more..”

Noa Dekel, creative strategist (ex-Facebook and Publicis): “Like a good art piece, it can be interpreted in many directions, and further, it ought to do so. The harsh response from the marketing community has been exaggerated and felt very personal.

“Some comments are truly ridiculous, such as ‘It mocks creators,’ ‘Steve wouldn’t have shipped it,’ ‘probably best to kill it’ and ‘I’m ashamed of Apple’ as a response, which is outrageous.

“Ironically, this type of criticism comes from the same members who complain about ads playing it too safe and not pushing the limits of creativity. Sure, it’s not a perfect ad; it’s not particularly happy, clear or comforting. But it’s provocative and it got people talking, which is exactly what ads should be doing.

“I must admit there were times in the past when the response was indeed justified (eg, Kendall Pepsi and ‘Facebook is Like Chairs’). But this is solid work, with a great tune, strong visuals and an underlying legitimate analogy – compressing creative tools into one device.

“Perhaps if we were a little less afraid to make ourselves feel uncomfortable and more open to (gasp) destroying an AI piano, the industry wouldn’t be losing its relevance and magic.”

Alan Young, joint chief creative officer, St Luke’s: “Apple was the client that made me want to work at Chiat Day. Right from the start, Apple was the brand that stood for making the work of creative people possible and this latest ad is, intellectually, a demonstration of that.

“So why does the creative community hate it? The issue is not so much the idea as its timing. Suddenly, illustrators, photographers, filmmakers and music composers are seeing their craft competently handled by AI and, to many of them, it feels, literally, crushing.

“The comments are OTT when you look at the ad without its cultural context, but understandable from a community that fear AI makes many of their old-school craft skills redundant.”

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Jo Bromilow, social strategy director, Golin: “I do think it’s demonstrative of the issue we know the industry has with making ads for everyone other than consumers; it’s notable that most of the ire has come from the creative and artistic community in media and in agencies while the consumer reaction hasn’t risen to the top at all.

“I understand the outrage among creative folks, however; it’s a strikingly uncomfortable visual metaphor for an industry that’s being increasingly impacted by technology and will potentially prompt an interesting change in the way creative companies represent technology as a partner, rather than an enabler, in advertising campaigns.”

Jonny Turnbull, senior planner, Saatchi & Saatchi: “I think there has been a bit of an overreaction, but it’s entirely based on the execution, not the idea.

“The overreaction has come in different flavors. One rages against the visual crushing of nostalgia and analog entertainment and another rages against Apple becoming what its 1984 ad stood against.

“But fundamentally, I don’t think the idea is any different from the ‘1,000 songs in your pocket’ when Jobs launched the iPod or the ‘Battery For Miles’ iPhone 14 launch. This is just ‘all the creative tools you need crammed into the slimmest iPad yet.’

“So, in short, yes, there has been an overreaction, but it’s because people are responding to the execution, not the idea. And I think we should respond to the idea for what it is: a tried and tested approach to brilliant product advertising.”

Lucy Hudson, managing director, McCann Birmingham: “This discussion again highlights the importance of healthy debate in advertising, but for anyone still sitting in creative reviews in agencyland, you will know it is still alive and well!

“However, crucial to that debate in the ‘real world’ is that we remember the purpose of advertising – to bring the truth about a brand or product to life in consumers’ lives. The response to this work comes from a very impassioned community, but it remains unfair to measure the advert against anything other than what it is designed for – illustrating why these products are so well loved by consumers.”

Jacob Brodmann, creative director and founder, An Honest Day’s Work: “Adland has gone soft. Let’s have a bit of perspective here. The world’s going to shit and you’re moaning about fucking advertising.

“Some people forget what we’re trying do here. Some people take life too seriously, but advertising is just that – advertising. That’s what I love about this industry. Fail today, pick up tomorrow.

“You want to be mad about something… be mad… but fucking change it. Make it better.”

Emma Lally, deputy creative director at Studio Something: “People are angry, aren’t they? Apple is the destroyer of all things creative! The irony being that the keyboards these industry warriors are punching are likely fixed to the latest iPhone or MacBook Pro.

“The discourse around this ad shows the importance of the execution. There are multiple ways this could have played out, the iPad screen being a vortex that sucks in all the instruments and tools. The iPad exploding into a million little pieces to show all the inspiration for the digital tools living inside it. Maybe Mary Poppin’s bag should have been given the 2024 treatment… but would it have been as impactful of an ad? Probably not.

“Apple chose violence. And so, in turn, so did the angry voices of the internet. Popcorn is out, as the comments come in. Surely we’ve all got more important things to be angry about?”

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