While Apple is usually on top of the game whether it comes to new product launches and ad campaigns, the company’s ad for the new iPad has blown up in its face, receiving an inundation of criticism for being “destructive.” Here’s everything we know about the backlash and whether the commercial could hurt the sales of the product, which is the “most powerful” and “thinnest” to date.

The ad, titled “Crush!”, shows an industrial press crushing multiple creative objects including books, a guitar, a piano, an old TV set, cameras, a typewriter, and a classic arcade game machine, and transforming them into a thin iPad with the compression soundtracked to Sonny & Cher’s “All I Ever Need Is You.”

Artists Slam Apple for Its ‘Destructive’ iPad Ad

While Apple CEO Tim Cook sees the ad as a sign of creation and tweeted, “Just imagine all the things it’ll be used to create,” most users online slammed the ad for being too destructive and portraying the submergence of human creativity into a gadget. No wonder multiple artists have slammed the commercial.

Actor Hugh Grant was among those who called out the ad for depicting the destruction of creative instruments. In response to Cook’s tweet, Grant replied, “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

The furor over the ad is not unjustified as it is a rather apt metaphor for the digital world taking over the physical world. Also, the ad emerged at a time when there is growing debate on how rapid advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) – including artificial general intelligence that OpenAI’s Sam Altman is gunning for – would change the world.

The Apple iPad commercial is an embodiment of these fears as it shows the destruction of instruments that express human creativity in favor of a lifeless gadget.

Apple likely just wanted to convey that the iPad can do the same things as all of the instruments it crushed, but the message totally backfired.

Artists See Tech Companies Infringing Their Copyrights

Producer, director, and writer Asif Kapadia drew parallels between the iPad ad and how the tech industry allegedly treats artists. He tweeted, “It is the most honest metaphor for what tech companies do to the arts, to artists musicians, creators, writers, filmmakers: squeeze them, use them, not pay well, take everything then say it’s all created by them.”

Incidentally, several artists and copyright owners sued OpenAI for infringement of their copyright. Artists claim that tech giants are scaping their work online to train the AI models without them getting compensated. AI giants like OpenAI and its backer Microsoft, however, say that use these materials under the “fair use” policy. This is a rather baffling excuse because “fair use” protections simply don’t apply for commercial products like ChatGPT.

While Open AI has received a partial reprieve from the courts the tussle between artists and tech companies looks set to intensify in the coming months with the Apple iPad ad doing no good to the cause of the tech industry.

The New iPad Ad Enraged Marketers Globally

Consumers and artists weren’t the only ones frustrated by the iPad ad. It seemed to enrage an entire generation of marketers and ad professionals.

Adam Singer, the vice president of marketing at advertising technology company AdQuick tweeted, “This ad is (unintentional) perfect metaphor for today’s creative dark age: compress organic instruments, joyful/imperfect machines, tangible art, our entire physical reality into a soulless, postmodern, read-only device a multi-trillion $ corporation controls what you do with.”

The iPad ad looks dark, and while Cook thinks it portrays “creation,” most users feel the opposite. However, it also depicts reality where gadgets like iPad have replaced many instruments of the previous era.

Apple’s Past Ads Were More Creative

TBWA\Media Arts Lab has been Apple’s exclusive ad agency for years now and for most of that time it has been a fantastic asset. Some of the past Apple campaigns were received quite well while others, like the recent iPad commercial, were controversial. Take, for instance, the “The Garden of Eden” in 1979 which showed a naked man with an Apple computer. While controversial, the ad was innovative in its ability to spark controversy.

aapl old ads

Source: Hubspot

In the 1990s, Apple came up with its “Think Different” ad campaigns which became quite popular, and the tagline got associated with the brand. The ad featured footage of some of the greatest thinkers like Dr Martin Luther King Jr., Albert Einstein, and Mahatma Gandhi, and underscored that Apple is meant for creative people who create history.

The Mac versus PC campaign that aired in 2006 and lasted for three years was also quite nice and tried to portray how Mac was better than PCs powered by Microsoft’s Windows.

Could the Ad Hurt Apple’s Revenues?

Meanwhile, coming back to the latest iPad, the 11-inch iPad Pro starts at $999 and the 13-inch version starts at $1,299. To be sure, iPad is not a significant revenue driver for Apple which gets around half its revenues from the iPhone alone. Then comes the hugely profitable Services business that accounts for over a quarter of the sales.

iPad is actually the smallest reported segment for Apple and while it generated revenues of $5.6 billion in the most recent quarter – no small sum for most other companies – it was just over 6% of Apple’s consolidated revenues in the March quarter.

apple stock price

It remains to be seen whether the ad would hurt sales of the new iPad but it certainly has created a controversy which could hurt a brand like Apple. AAPL stock is already underperforming peers in the “Magnificent 7” this year (barring Tesla) and the last thing it would have wanted is a major controversy over a commercial. However, the ad may be able to hit a sweet spot that controversial ads like to shoot for: lots of publicity over a relatively mild controversy.

Either way, Apple needs to step up its game as 2024 could be a crucial year for the Cupertino-based company. It is expected to come up with AI-enabled gadgets later in the year which could help it beat slowdown blues – the company’s revenues fell YoY in the last fiscal year amid the slowdown in global smartphone sales.

With Apple struggling to reclaim its $3 trillion market cap and status as the world’s largest company, it might need to not only come up with more innovative products, especially amid tough competition in China – its second-biggest market – but also advertise these well without creating controversies as is the case with the iPad commercial.