Apple iPad Ad Is Bad

9 May 2024
Tim, Just Crush Me

iPad - Figure 1
Photo Vulture

By Nicholas Quah, a Vulture critic who covers podcasts, television, and pop culture

One of my favorite scenes in a movie ever is that sequence in David Fincher’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo remake where Stellan Skarsgård suspends Daniel Craig in the murder basement of his (beautiful, angular, oh God I want it) Swedish countryside home and attempts to suffocate him with a plastic bag. I can’t really articulate why I constantly think about that scene. I think the imagery tickles the same part of my brain that’s drawn to those videos where sickos drop molten steel balls into mayonnaise or smoosh piles of candy with hydraulic presses. This is a very Fincherian thing: to feel like destroying something beautiful. It’s perverted, yet satisfying, and dare I say, a touch erotic.

I’m not sure Apple meant to gesture toward those feelings when it released the new iPad Pro ad that’s gotten people into a tizzy, but for me, at least, it did:

Lit like a Saw film, the spot, titled “Crush!,” opens in an industrial basement where a mountain of cultural objects are placed on the business end of a huge hydraulic press: a television, an arcade cabinet, a trumpet, a turntable, art supplies, an inexplicable Angry Birds bust, and so on. Sonny & Cher’s “All I Ever Need Is You” plays as the press slowly descends, and the camera cuts between close-ups of different objects being decimated by the will of the machine. It’s a murder scene. Television glass shatters. Books flatten. Paint spurts everywhere. In a gnarly touch, the ad closes out with a yellow-emoji stress ball exploding through its eyes. What the ad tries to communicate in terms of a product pitch is obvious: Here are all the analog objects you don’t need anymore because their functions are squeezed into an iPad, now thinner and sleeker than ever. But the symbolism, perhaps inadvertent, is clear too: Here’s Big Tech reducing the humanities into flatness. Backlash to the ad has ensued; some are calling it “gruesomely arrogant” and “tone-deaf,” while others are noting its “fascist aesthetic.” Comments on the YouTube version of the ad were turned off by the company less than a day after it was first uploaded.

iPad - Figure 2
Photo Vulture

All those accusations are true, by the way. The ad clearly descends from the Übermensch strain of tech-bro braggadocio that defined the halcyon days of the early 2010s, when apps like Yo were going to save the world. Those vibes are more muted these days, but they still persist through the fomenting hype around how AI is going to transform everything (and take our jobs) and how crypto is going to make us rich (if it doesn’t implode). That this ad came from Apple — once led by the tyrannical but arts-loving Steve Jobs, he of the “computers as the bicycle of the mind” mantra — feels like some crossing of a threshold. Back in the day, the tech conglomerate was canny about how it represented that relationship between technology and art. It was also a place that routinely made cultural moments out of new product releases and deft use of advertising. But these days, the defining image is Tim Cook limply waving the checkered flag at a Formula One race. My deep personal passion for Apple TV+ aside (accused by some of being an also-ran in the streaming wars), the company is a boring, thoroughly forgettable version of its former self. Name one other recent iPad ad. Are you really excited about another iPhone? Sure, the hubbub around “Crush!” could ultimately be seen as a win. If backlash is attention, and all attention is good, then all this will net out to a positive for Cupertino. At least we’re talking about it, right?

But my issue with the spot is aesthetic: It should’ve gone harder. “Crush!” brought Daniel Craig’s asphyxiation to my mind, but in the manner of all Apple ads, the violence on display is too clean, too sleek. You pray for more sweat, more bodily fluid. You know what else an iPad replaces? The need to see your friends in person; they should’ve gone under the press, too. A braver version of Apple would’ve just owned its reputation as a tech overlord. Make me call you Daddy already. C’mon, make me feel something.

Tim, Just Crush Me
Read more
Similar news
This week's most popular news