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If you build it, they will probably roast it.

Babe wake up, new soul-crushing tech ad just dropped.

June 13, 2024

Headshot of Kyle Monson - Founding partner at Codeword

Kyle Monson

Founding partner at Codeword

You probably saw the Apple iPad spot that went viral last month — but if you didn’t, here’s a refresher: Tim Cook shared it on X, it got roasted on X and Bluesky, the ad industry folks on Fishbowl thought it was cool and well done, and Apple apologized and ended up pulling it.

At the risk of sounding like a LinkedIn thought leader, there’s a big lesson every brand needs to learn from this: The audience decides how your creative work is interpreted. 

We live in a fragmented world, and it takes empathy and imagination to see the world, and our work, through different lenses.

  • For artists, the image of Big Tech destroying the tools of their trade and reducing them into a thin slab of glass is a visceral reminder that our society values technical efficiency over human creativity. If you don’t need this piano anymore, do you still need a pianist?
  • For the ad industry, the idea that a product spot can still get people to talk, share, and argue is comforting, in our world of fast-acting performance marketing.
  • For the tech industry, the spot is obviously about empowerment! The new iPad makes a huge pile of creative tools available to anyone anywhere, for a fraction of the price. You can carry a piano, a studio, and every paint color in the world right in your purse, what’s more creatively empowering than that?
  • For the tech skeptics, there’s a lot to fear in 2024, and this spot played right into every anxiety people are feeling about the dominance of tech in their lives. Here, watch this short film from Apple about your familiar world getting un-metaphorically crushed by tech innovation.

Those perspectives are all true, and in this case, the artists won the day. My point is, the only perspective that didn’t impact the conversation is Apple’s. Once the spot goes live, if you have to explain what it really meant, you’ve already lost.

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