Louis Persent
May 15, 2024

Moving on from Apple 'Crush': How do we stay human on the surface?

As the furore over Apple "Crush" moves into the rearview mirror with the tech giant apologising for the ad, the founder and creative director of Weirdo says it's time to champion the human.

Moving on from Apple 'Crush': How do we stay human on the surface?

The irony of drafting this in my Notes app, but here we go...

Apple's latest ad reveals a great tension of our times, between what it takes to make great creative work, and the promise of tools that automate the struggle away. Because there's no way they made that film on an iPad, even if the takeaway is that maybe you can.

Like many I watched it and found it all beautifully sad. Who needs the right instrument to produce your one-of-a-kind art when you have a 5.1mm-thick tool for every job? A piano—crushed. A vinyl player— smashed. Paint—smushed. Culture shattered, but the production value second to none.

It's weird to see Apple get it so wrong. A brand that's lionised the free-thinking masters of the tools they now crush. A company that's always staked its own path without worrying about the competition. Then, of all the battles to choose, they've decided on tech vs art. The optimised vs the curious. Ease vs mastery.

But this isn't intended to be a takedown. I think what's way more interesting is examining the online reaction as the clearest manifestation yet of tech's ever-growing brand challenge: how to stay human on the surface, whilst cramming AI under the hood of the products and services we use.

I'm scared to sound like a technophobe. Change will happen, we'll all adapt. But will our work be any good? Within the creative field, the race to embed generative AI is premised on making sure our imagined expectation is as close as possible to the generated output. To be like something is to be valuable. It's the literal definition of style over substance and that's where my fears lie.

Because all this is happening at a time when more and more people want to be, and are, creative. When every TikTok creator is a skilled editor, every kid is a DJ and when there's a huge imperative to create, not just consume, culture, no matter who you are.

So the reaction to Apple's ad is a wake-up call for why we need brands in the first place. To humanise great feats of engineering, to make the pain of technological change make sense, and to help business stand for the things people care and believe in. And the things humans care about? That's culture.

As an industry, we need to recognise the things people love are never optimised. In reality, every audience's passions are a big, bad mess. That means our task is to use the power of brand and storytelling to show that businesses understand what's at stake right now. With AI legitimately transforming what's under the hood of every app, device and service, we have to stand for culture. Not against it.

We're at that point in the hype cycle that I suspect we've hit the peak glamour of AI, at least as a product feature. But as the awkward tension between creativity and capitalism grows, brands are going to be quickly caught out if they don't show they're on the side of the human. That means nothing should stand in the way of our industry protecting the messiness of art. I just hope we're strong enough to withstand the culture-crushers.

Sent from my iPhone.

Louis Persent is founder and creative director of Weirdo.

Campaign UK

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