Apple crushes creativity and its reputation in new iPad ad

Someone in marketing may be getting fired for this

Comment "This is who we are, this is what we stand for," said Apple co-founder Steve Jobs shortly before he relaunched the company in 1997 with its iconic Think Different marketing campaign. This week, the consumer tech giant showed the world its true colors and some were not impressed.

Launching the latest iPad ad campaign, Apple CEO Tim Cook – who took the top job at Apple in August 2011 six weeks before Jobs died of complications related to pancreatic cancer – introduced the new iPad Pro as "the thinnest product we've ever created, the most advanced display we've ever produced, with the incredible power of the M4 chip."

The ad itself depicted a mechanical crusher destroying artifacts of human creativity. A trumpet, guitar, sculpture, piano, drawing board, paints, a metronome, several analog cameras, a turntable, and hi-fi equipment were among the much-loved items yielding to the machine's unstoppable force.

What was left? A small, thin computer – an iterative development of a device first launched 14 years ago.

The response from people on social media was swift and damning. "Tone-deaf at least, malicious at worst," said one Xitter user who accused the ad of "crushing human creativity."

"I'm not sure 'wanton destruction of all the good and beautiful things [in] this world' was really the vibe you were trying for," said another.

Even celebrities got in on the act. Brit actor Hugh Grant said it represented the "destruction of the human experience," while US actor and filmmaker Justine Bateman said the short video represented Apple "crushing the arts."

The ad was not even original. A keen Xitter user pointed out that electronics firm LG used almost exactly the same concept and visual for its smartphone campaign in 2008 – crushed instruments, splattered paint, crumbling hi-fi components, they're all there.

Did Apple copy the ad and hope no one would notice? Was the company that generated a staggering $383 billion in revenue in fiscal 2023 too lazy to check? Either way, it may be a sign that quality has slipped at the brand once considered the gold standard in marketing.

In another indication that Cook's team has strayed from Jobs' ethos, the CEO boasted product features including the thinnest device and the most advanced display with "the incredible power of the M4 chip."

Introducing the Think Different campaign, Jobs offered a treatise on marketing. In it, he said Apple should not talk about "speeds and feeds" or "MIPS and megahertz." Instead, the company should seek to represent its supposed values, which it did by depicting a string of iconic pioneers and creatives. John Lennon, Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Buckminster Fuller, Muhammad Ali, Amelia Earhart, and Mahatma Gandhi all made the list.

Apple has now apologized for this week's ill-judged iPad campaign and pulled the ad.

"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," Apple marketing veep Tor Myhren said in a statement, which observers might speculate will be his last.

Yet the damage has been done. A media frenzy accompanied the initial outrage, and mainstream outlets took a second bite of the cherry with Apple's mea culpa.

As Jobs said: "This is who we are, this is what we stand for."

When we see musical instruments and sculptures crushed by an unflinching, unrelenting machine, we should remember another iconic American creative. Poet Maya Angelou said: "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like