Apple’s ‘Crush’ ad is disgusting

5 Min Read

In general, you can trust Apple when it comes to smart, well-produced ads, but that misses the mark his latest, which depicts a tower of creative tools and analog items literally crushed into the shape of the iPad. Many, including myself, responded negatively and viscerally to this, and we need to talk about why.

It’s not just because we see things being crushed. There are countless video channels dedicated to crushing, burning, exploding and generally destroying everyday objects. Plus, of course, we all know that things like this happen every day at transfer stations and recycling centers. So it isn’t.

And it’s not like the stuff itself is that valuable. Of course a piano is worth something. But we see them blown up all the time in action movies and don’t feel bad. I love pianos, but that doesn’t mean we can’t live without a pair of unused baby grand pianos. The same goes for the rest: it’s mostly junk you can buy for a few bucks on Craigslist, or for free at a dump. (Maybe not the editing station.)

The problem isn’t with the video itself, which, in fairness to the people who staged and shot it, is actually very well done. The problem is not the media, but the message.

We all understand the ostensible point of the ad: you can do all these things on an iPad. Awesome. Of course, we could also do it on the last iPad, but this one is thinner (no one asked for that, by the way; now the cases no longer fit) and a made-up percentage better.

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What we all understand, though, because unlike Apple’s advertising people we live in the world, is that the things being crushed here represent the material, the tangible, the real. And reality has value. Value that Apple clearly thinks can be crushed into yet another black mirror.

This belief is disgusting to me. And apparently for many others too.

Destroying a piano in a music video or Mythbusters episode is actually an act of creation. Even destroying a piano (or monitor, paint can or drum set) for no reason is wasteful at worst!

But what Apple does is destroy these things to convince you that you don’t need them — all you need is the company’s little device, which can do all that and more, and you don’t need any annoying stuff like strings, keys, knobs, brushes or mixing stations.

We are all dealing with the consequences of the massive media shift to digital and always online. In many ways it’s really good! I think technology has been very empowering.

But in other, equally real ways, the digital transformation feels harmful and forced, a technotopian, billionaire-endorsed vision of the future where every child has an AI best friend and can learn to play virtual guitar on a cold glass screen.

Does your child like music? They don’t need a harp, throw it in the landfill. An iPad is good enough. Do they like painting? Here, Apple Pencil, as good as pens, watercolors, oils! Books? Don’t make us laugh! Destroy them. Paper is worthless, use a different screen. Then why not read it in Apple Vision Pro, with fake paper still on it?

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What Apple seems to have forgotten is that it’s the things in the real world—the very things Apple destroyed—that give the fake versions of those things value in the first place.

A virtual guitar cannot replace a real guitar; that’s like thinking a book can replace the author.

That doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate both for different reasons. But the Apple ad sends the message that the future it wants doesn’t have bottles of paint, dials, sculptures, physical instruments, paper books. Of course, that’s the future the company has been working to sell us on for years, only it hadn’t put it so bluntly yet.

If someone tells you who he or she is, believe him/her. Apple tells you very clearly what it is and what it wants the future to be. If that future doesn’t disgust you, then you’re welcome.

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