COHN AI: Apple’s Brand Misstep

May 16, 2024

COHN examines the controversial Apple iPad spot

The very best thing about working at an agency is the daily conversations we have about brands in the wild. Everyone at COHN has a unique, and expert, point of view, and bringing our own expertise to the table allows for fruitful dialogue when globally recognized brands step in “it.”

Earlier today, our CEO Jeff Cohn asked the team about the Apple backlash circulating around their newest iPad ad. To give our readers, and future employees, a look behind the curtain at COHN, here’s a sampling of the team’s thoughts. Enjoy.


Jeff Cohn, Founder and CEO

Hi Team COHN, I was listening to a podcast this morning where they discussed a new Apple spot introducing their newest iPad, the “thinnest ever.” The spot, which in my opinion is tone-deaf, shows the destruction of human things (or perhaps raises the ire of AI vs Humanity). While the production values are fantastic, the messaging is off-putting. This could have been executed very differently and been less offensive.

I have many thoughts on how they could have taken a similar idea but done it more positively. Apple has since apologized and done a mea culpa. Meanwhile…they’ll sell a ton of these anyway.

What are your thoughts?


Taylor Brizendine, Account Director

I saw this commercial on social media a few weeks ago before the backlash started. My immediate interpretation was – “Wow, they want to rid all of the classical forms of history, art and technology that made us who we are today as a society (Apple included) .” It made me sad. You have to wonder how many groups of people this had to go through to get to final production and launch in the market. And yet not one of those people raised a red flag.

To some degree, it’s a bit terrifying how “out of touch” agencies can get when in the creative workflow process. To me, this is a wake-up call for us to ensure creativity is being evaluated from all sides and that maybe pulling in resources to examine various interpretations of the same concept is necessary.


Paul Wood, Senior WordPress Developer

I’m surprised that the ad was actually produced. It’s super dark.

They are basically out of touch with all creatives.

Where do you think all the original instrument audio samples come from?
Do you think sculptures can learn how to sculpt without clay?
Do you think software even comes close to what real paint can do?
And they think the camera on that thing can come close to what real professional cameras / lenses can do?
I could keep going…. but this one might stick with them for a while.

Computers are tools to enhance and work alongside all those things.


Chris Thomas, Creative Director

Interesting discussion and all great.

I hadn’t seen the commercial until it became such a thing on social media and news (kudos to the agency for creating something powerful enough to cause such a stir!)

Now, forgive me for taking something at face value vs reading a lot into it:
The way I viewed it is nothing more than taking all of the creative STUFF and packing it into a super slim and sleek device.
And shot in a brilliant, dynamic way.
No more, no less.

The fact that it’s being seen as AI taking over, well that’s more interesting than the actual commercial.


Debbie Berschling, Senior Account Director

Chris, I saw it like you did. A physical interpretation of the new key attribute for the thinnest iPad to date. I guess I’m just not that deep – and I am sensitive to the quick jump (or so it seems) by many to the AI bandwagon.


Justin Gatz, Digital Marketing Specialist

I agree with Chris on this. I saw it simply for what I think their intent was. To show how much capability is crammed into such a small device.

That being said I can see why it is being viewed in a poor light considering the national and even global environment we’re in. I agree that it does come off tone-deaf in that regard.

What I found to make it appear poorly was the choice of the setting and lighting. The cool tones of an empty dark factory subconsciously spell a dystopian future devoid of human spirit, which in itself feels off-brand for Apple which has over the last few decades in the Jony Ive Era been very vibrant, energetic, or at the very least minimalistic.


Lisa Wieting, Chief Marketing Officer

I didn’t see it as much from the AI lens but as an “angle” that all you will ever need is a screen. No need to buy a book, just read on a screen. No need to get your kids a paint set, just download a paint-by-numbers app. No need to learn an instrument, just create music on a device. The last thing I would want to hear from my kids is, “Why do I need crayons and paper when I can just do it on an iPad?”

As someone who is constantly playing the “screen time” police, it just made me sad that the spot encourages even more screen time for things that have always been more tactile and you can’t “undo” it immediately.


Kathy Borgias, Senior Account Director

I had heard about it but hadn’t seen it yet. I didn’t read anyone else’s comments because I wanted to see how I felt without that. It comes across as arrogant to me. I don’t have one, but I know many kids have them for school. While the parents buy them for kids, I don’t think the ad would make a parent feel it’s for kids.


Jeff Cohn, Founder and CEO

Thanks, everyone! I’ve really enjoyed reading and thinking about everyone’s insights on this. Not sure if there’s much more we can do with it but the internal thinking is great to read and absorb.

Thanks to all the participants today!


Update: Gabriel Tarin, Digital Art Director

If you all haven’t seen Samsung’s response to this ad, check it out. Goosebumps. Such a simple and elegant commercial that pulls on the heart strings (pun intended) and puts the user first, instead of the product. “Chef’s Kiss”

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