Marketing hits and misses are not often impactful enough for global discussion, but the latest Apple iPad ad controversy is a good reminder that some misses are bigger than others. The recently released iPad Pro was launched to many favorable reviews that cheered at the updated design and specs of the device. The Apple iPad Pro backlash came to light a little bit later, when they released a new ad to market the full potential of the gadget. The company tried to convey the iPad’s ability to consolidate a plethora of technology and creative power into one device that can do it all, but the tone-deaf depiction of it was stomped on by the public almost immediately. The Apple iPad Pro ad criticisms emphasized the tech industry’s habit of “crushing” human potential and cultural evolution and how succinctly Apple portrayed its own role in this particular tradition. 

Apple iPad Pro backlash

Image: The new iPad Pro with the Magic Keyboard

Apple iPad Ad Controversy Highlights Public Sensitivities 

The Apple iPad Pro ad criticism came to the forefront of the public eye after celebrities like Hugh Grant called out the ad for being a “destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.” The Apple iPad ad in question features what looks like a gigantic hydraulic press slowly coming down on a wide assortment of objects and crushing them mercilessly. The objects in the video include a variety of musical instruments like a guitar, a trumpet, a piano, and other things like cameras, books, sculptures, paint cans, etc. As the pressure comes down on the objects, they shatter and splatter while a shocked emoji squeeze ball has its eyes pop out. Why did they think this would be a good idea?

When the machine is done destroying everything in its downward path, it rises back up to leave a sleek and small iPad instead, replacing the carnage of everything left behind. The Apple iPad ad controversy was preceded by the company’s explanation that the iPad Pro was here to handle all the tasks that these assortments of objects performed, giving us one device to rule them all. The reasoning is understandable—the iPad is a compact device but it is capable of performing so many different tasks, all at once. The delivery, however, is questionable.

The criticism around the Apple iPad Pro ad is very valid, but before we get into how people feel, we also see that the company was trying to stay on trend and mimic the many videos circulating the internet of different objects being squashed by high-pressure machines. From chalk to watermelons to legos, many commodities have been put through the pressure test just to depict the pure joy of the explosion at the end. These crush tests only serve a destructive purpose, so it is unfortunate that the company picked this particular trend to echo.

Apple iPad Pro Backlash Ensues

Quickly after its release, the tenor of the Apple iPad Pro ad criticisms grew more enraged as people began to chime in and express their displeasure at how the company had chosen to frame the ad concept. The wanton destruction of objects that many hold dear is one part of the problem. Symbols of their childhood or objects that others use for their livelihood being ruined aren’t necessarily the kind of sights that would depict the company in a favorable light. Worse still, is the implication that tech giants will reign supreme with their forced introduction of technology to replace every form of creativity and expression that we’ve relied on for years.

X/Twitter user @sterlingcrispin replied to CEO Cook’s tweet “Crushing symbols of human creativity and cultural achievements to appeal to pro creators, nice.” Another user, @JoeTransue said “Who thought this was a good idea?? Did you hire the one person that *liked* the scene in Who Framed Roger Rabbit where the bad guy dips the animated shoe in the toon-killing bath??.” Displaying the many symbols that represent the vibrancy of the human spirit crushed to leave behind a flat, soulless block is perhaps one of the worst decisions the company has made in marketing, despite its legacy of creative ads.

The evolution of technology is inevitable—Apple has had a big part to play in challenging the status quo and championing a product that no one believed in. But everything the company has to offer is built on the backs of the talent, creativity, and tools that came before it. We haven’t yet reached a point in time when someone would “prefer” to master a Guitar app rather than a real-life instrument if they had a choice, so the visual implications of the ad do fall flat all on their own—they do not have to be forcefully flattened. When Hank Green tells you that you are today’s discourse, you best believe you’ve done something that needs a perspective shift.

Apple iPad Pro ad criticism

We Now Have Apple’s Apology for the iPad Ad

In response to the Apple iPad Pro backlash, the company’s marketing VP Tor Myhren told Ad Age, “Creativity is in our DNA at Apple, and it’s incredibly important to us to design products that empower creatives all over the world. Our goal is to always celebrate the myriad of ways users express themselves and bring their ideas to life through iPad. We missed the mark with this video, and we’re sorry.” The apology was necessary but it may not be enough to calm the public. Apple CEO Tim Cook has not made any statements since it was shared a week ago on May 7, and so there is still no evidence of whether the company is taking the criticism seriously, but Mark Gurman did report that the company is scraping its plans to air the ad on TV.

While there has been a mostly negative response to the advertisement, the Apple iPad ad controversy has also been written off as an overreaction by many who only see Apple’s intention to promote its device as a multipurpose tool that can simplify our lives. Their feedback is valid as well, and Apple’s team may have genuinely overlooked the implications of their ad while they were in the process of creating it. If the clip had been released a few years ago, perhaps the reactions would not have been quite so passionate and the short video may have been overlooked just as the majority of advertisements are.

Regardless, it’s the company’s job to understand the global climate and take heed of the fact that many people are losing their jobs to technology. The fear of AI and tech replacing human creativity and skill is a part of popular discourse, which makes the ad stand out in contrast as it suggests that instruments can be replaced by a mini-computer. This is a great opportunity for a genuine Apple apology for the iPad ad followed by a recreation keeping the public feedback in mind, but will the company accept this loss and do better? We’ll see.