Apple slammed by users over iPad Pro ‘Crush’ ad: ‘fascist aesthetic’

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Apple, Inc. has had a rough year. But maybe it’s deserved?

One of the wealthiest, most lucrative, and valuable (at least in terms of its stock market capitalization) tech companies in the world released its new “spatial computing” headset Vision Pro, an entirely new product category and the first since the Apple Watch in 2015, only for it to kind of fall flat, receiving mixed reviews and allegedly poor sales and declining consumer interest.

Then, Apple got forced by the EU to open up the iPhone to third-party app stores and sued by the U.S. Justice Department for an alleged monopoly over smartphone and smartwatch sales.

Now, this week, less than 24 hours after it held a special event to unveil the new, record-thin (0.20 inch, the thinnest Apple device yet) iPad Pro with M4 chip inside, which the company says is optimized for AI, it is facing a loud and fast-spreading public backlash to one of its new marquee video advertisements promoting the device — a spot called “Crush.”

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The video features a giant, industrial hydraulic press machine — a device category famous for appearing in viral videos over the last decade-and-a-half — literally pressing down upon and destroying dozens of other objects and creative instruments, from trumpets to cans of paint. The ad concludes with the press lifting to reveal these objects have somehow been transformed into a new iPad Pro.

The metaphor and messaging is pretty obvious: the iPad Pro can subsume and replace all these older legacy instruments and technologies inside of it, and all in a more portable, sleek, and more powerful form factor than ever before.

It’s analogous to similar observations and advertisements other fans and creatives have made in the past about how PCs and smartphones replaced nearly all the individual gadgets — stereo radios/boom boxes, journals, calculators, drawing pads, typewriters, video cameras — of yore by offering many of their same core capabilities in a smaller, unified, more portable form factor.

Why the backlash?

So why are users rebelling en masse to the new iPad Pro crush ad?

Read on for some of their reactions — the main takeaway, as you’ll see below, is that people are revolted by the bluntness of Apple’s metaphor, the destruction of beloved traditional instruments and objects which people hold in high esteem and affix intangible value to for their creative potential, and the overarching and perhaps unintentional messaging that Apple wants to literally flatten creativity and violently crush the creative tools of yesterday in favor of a multi-hundred dollar piece of luxury technology whose operating system and ecosystem of applications it tightly controls and restricts.

Part of a larger wave of anti-tech public sentiment

Is it part of the larger “tech-lash” or backlash against tech companies that has arisen in the popular consciousness of the last few years?

If so, it is arguably one of the more potent and singular displays of anti-tech and anti-gadget sentiment I’ve seen. But then again, critics would argue Apple’s ad is itself a potent, anti-art message.

It also reminds me in many ways of the rising class consciousness — if you can call it that — among visual artists and creatives objecting to AI firms scraping creative works without express permission or compensation and training models on them that compete with the original authors.

We’ll see if and how this feeling effects Apple’s sales or reputation among consumers more broadly in the coming weeks and months.

Either way, for a company famed for its marketing and advertising — the “Think Different” campaign remains one of the most universally revered and iconic of all time — the fact that this new iPad Pro ad has struck such a false note among many users doesn’t seem to bode well for Apple’s reputation at the moment.

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