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Apple apologizes for its tone-deaf ad that crushed human creativity to make an iPad

Apple has reportedly apologized for its tone-deaf “Crush!” ad that sparked a furious backlash with artists, musicians and other creators. AdAge reports that Apple said the video “missed the mark” and has scrapped plans to run the cutesy-turned-cringey commercial on TV.

It’s clear that Apple intended for the ad to serve as a metaphor for all the myriad creative tools one has when they throw down $1,000 or more for a new iPad Pro. Run during Tuesday’s event, the video shows a series of musical instruments and other tools for human expression, including a guitar, drums, trumpet, amplifiers, record player, TV and much more. “All I Ever Need Is You” by Sonny & Cher soundtracks the clip.

Soon, it’s revealed that the objects are all sitting on an industrial crusher, which descends upon the scattered creative instruments, exploding in plumes of satisfyingly colorful smoke. But when the crusher pulls back up, we see that everything was transformed into a shiny new iPad Pro.

Apple

A decade ago, this ad likely wouldn’t have been a big deal. But Apple’s marketers completely whiffed on the context of the moment. The ad comes weeks before Apple will take the stage at WWDC to announce its generative AI features that its investors have been salivating for.

Generative AI, as you may have heard, needs something to train on — and that means humans’ work. It learns from existing content to make algorithmically generated words, pictures, music, voices or who knows what else. It also has the capability to put those same creators — most of whom don’t have cushy jobs at Apple or other Big Five tech companies — out of work as corporations and consumers eagerly adopt the robots destined to put creators on the unemployment line.

Context is everything, and Apple failed spectacularly there. Its ad serves as a pitch-perfect metaphor for generative AI’s potential to crush human creation, turning us all into “prompt artists” who type words into text boxes to replace their years of training and experience. (Granted, generative AI has genuinely exciting applications, too, but much more needs to be made of the society-level chaos it can and will unleash.)

“Creativity is in our DNA at Apple, and it’s incredibly important to us to design products that empower creatives all over the world,” Tor Myhren, Apple VP of marketing communications, told AdAge. “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.”

Hey, an apology means something. But we’ll see what tone Apple adopts next month when it rolls out the tools that set the stage for the apology in the first place. Something tells me that train is out of the station and will be plowing forward full steam, no matter how much creativity the company has in its DNA.

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