Apple’s worst ad ever?

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For years now, Apple has been as much a marketing company as a technology company. But after Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the iPad Pro ad this week, you have to ask whether Apple has lost its marketing mojo. 

The ad features — if that’s the right word — musical instruments, artist tools, toys, and games being crushed by a huge hydraulic press and turned into a new iPad. All this happens to the musical background of Sonny and Cher’s 1971 hit, All I Ever Need Is You

Ah, no, Apple, we need far more than just you.

I mean, seriously.  How was this ad ever made? Who greenlighted it? And how in the world did it ever make it to the public? Did no one even look at it?

It’s not just me. Many other people hate — really hate — the ad, based on the groundswell of criticism that erupted online this week. 

At a time when artificial intelligence (AI) fans are pushing out artists, writers, and musicians, it’s offensive for Apple to imply we can do without all those old analog creative types. (I’m reminded of how James McNerney, former Boeing CEO, would call his company’s senior engineers  “phenomenally talented a**holes.” If Apple ends up shoving out its creative people the way Boeing did its engineers, future Apple products might be as “good” as the Boeing 737 Max 9, and the 787 Dreamliner.)

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No one will die from a bad Apple, but it’s a red flag whenever a company mistreats its top people. It’s a slap in the face to all of Apple’s in-house creatives, as well as the company’s many loyal creative users. 

The timing could not have been worse. People, especially creative pros, are understandably nervous about their work being stolen and losing their jobs to soulless AI algorithms and apps. This ad is that very fear crystallized into 60 seconds of video. 

This is not the kind of “Think Different,” people want to see from Apple. Indeed, this is the opposite of what people want. As Michael J. Miraflor, chief branding officer for venture capital company Hannah Grey VC, tweeted, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a single commercial offend and turn off a core customer base as much as this iPad spot.

James Cook, marketing director at venture capitalist firm Molten Ventures, summed it well on Xitter

Apple’s new “Crush” ad (let’s call it “2024”) is a visual & metaphorical bookend to the 1984 ad.

1984: Monochrome, conformist, industrial world exploded by colourful, vibrant human.

2024: Colourful, vibrant humanity is crushed by monochrome, conformist industrial press.

Exactly so. 

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Now, Cult of Mac members might argue we just don’t get it. That just tells me that Apple’s marketing policies, started by Steve Jobs with his personal reality distortion field, have been remarkably persistent. But that was then; this is now.

Seeing objects like pianos and guitars that many love being smashed is a slap in the face and it’s painful to watch. This is how Apple can lose its marketing mojo.

And if you don’t think Apple could lose its popularity due to an ad, think again. Ask Coca-Cola how  its 1985 New Coke campaign worked out. Hint: Many of you have never had a New Coke in your life. More recently, Peleton saw its stock price drop by 15% after its ad campaign showing a woman being thankful to her husband for getting an the exercise bike so she could become prettier. Yeah, that went over well.

Remarkably, the same concept was done much better by eBay, of all companies, in 2015, eBay produced an animated GIF of the evolution of the desk where desktop items from photos to calculators to calendars transform into icons on an ever-changing computer screen. 

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Unlike the Apple ad, this was fun, and it made the same point.

Even more annoying is that Apple could have used the same footage and music to make a brilliant ad. That’s what Reza Sixo Safai did on Xitter. Safai simply reversed the video, so from an iPad Pro, the crushed wreckage is restored to all its wonderful, delightful glory. 

The moral of this story is that no company can ever be so successful that it can’t blow it. If Apple is as smart as its fans think it is, it will dump this ad as soon as possible and try to find another way to get people excited about buying iPads. 

This was not the way. 

Apple, iPad, IT Strategy, Marketing and Advertising Industry, Vendors and Providers

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