The Art of Loss: How Apple’s Latest Ad Forecasts a Cultural Shift

In its iconic 1984 Super Bowl XVIII commercial, Apple positioned itself as the defiant underdog, challenging conformity and authoritarianism. Fast-forward to today and their latest iPad commercial tells a strikingly different story. It depicts the destruction of physical art, suggesting that Apple might have become the “Big Brother” it once opposed. This commercial sends a stark message: traditional art forms are being squashed to make way for the sleek efficiency of digital technology, with Apple at the forefront.

This advertisement should prompt deep reflection. Beneath the polished exterior of the new iPad lies a troubling undercurrent. It’s almost like a Freudian slip, revealing a subconscious belief that digital mediums should rightfully replace physical art. The commercial’s expressive imagery indicates that this concern is well-founded. The message seems to be to discard the old analog forms of art, just as one might burn books, and embrace the dominating convenience of technology as presented by Big Brother.

There’s an irony here that shouldn’t be overlooked. The very devices we use to watch this commercial might inhibit our ability to critically engage with the content they display. These tools of technology, which are supposed to broaden our horizons, are actually designed, per the commercial’s thesis, to narrow our focus. In other words, the commercial would be received differently if viewed in person, where we witnessed an actual trumpet getting bent and crushed.

On the surface, Apple’s iPad commercial is just another well-produced piece showcasing the latest Apple product. But if we’re not careful, the medium itself can obscure the message hidden within. Instead of prompting us to question the implications of replacing physical art with digital replicas, the seductive quality of the device might lead us simply to admire its aesthetic and innovation, glossing over the potential loss of tangible cultural heritage. And make no mistake about it, the commercial underscores a corporate priority—the value of digital convenience over cultural heritage.

The device that delivers its message with crystal-clear resolution could also be blurring our vision, making us miss the significant cultural shift it represents. We would do well to remember that while technology can connect us to a lot of quick content and pretty visuals, it also has the potential to disconnect us from deeper truths.

In our rush toward a digital substitute, what exactly are we leaving behind?

Art is a deep expression of what it means to be human. Each press of an ivory piano key, each stroke of a paintbrush, and each chisel into marble provides a glimpse into the soul of an artist—a soul uniquely crafted by a creative God.

Can a digital display, however advanced, serve as the primary or even the sole medium for creativity and truly capture that depth exclusively? I’m skeptical.

Neil Postman warned us about becoming a society enamored with our technological achievements—a society where efficiency trumps meaning. As we chase after the latest and thinnest technology, we cannot forget the unique connections that come through experiencing physical art. The feel of a drawing pencil on a piece of sketch paper and the resonance of music vibrating through wood and brass are irreplaceable aspects of the human experience, and no iPad, no matter how advanced, can replicate them.

Apple missed an opportunity with this iPad advertisement. They could have positioned their device as a partner to traditional art forms, enhancing rather than replacing them. They could have celebrated the creative possibilities of integrating digital tools with traditional artistry. They could have even presented the device as an additional tool for creativity.  Instead, they chose to show us images of crushed paint tubes, shattered guitars, and a demolished marble bust juxtaposed with a sleek and perfect iPad that replaces all of it.

This is no trivial matter when it comes to what it means to create in a biblical sense.

The Bible portrays creativity as an intrinsic part of God’s character, which He shares with humanity, uniquely made in His image. By destroying traditional art forms, Apple’s message shifts the focus from creation as an act of participation with God to creation as an act of convenience. This sidelines the spiritual dimension of creating in favor of efficiency. It’s another attempt at redefining and repurposing a gift from God to humanity. Consequently, this commercial might be as emblematic as Apple’s 1984 commercial.

As we continue to progress in this digital age, we must pause and think carefully about how we embrace technology. Devices like the iPad should not become “Big Brother” replacements for art. Instead, they are merely another option that can expand our creative horizons and help us explore what it means to be created in the imago Dei. We are, after all, God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph 2:10).

Jared Wellman is the pastor of Tate Springs in Arlington, Texas. Jared has earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies (2007) and a Master of Arts in Philosophy (2010) from the Criswell College, as well as a Ph.D. in Theology from South Africa Theological Seminary (2018). He is currently working on a Ph.D. in Apologetics at Southern Seminary. Jared has been married to Amanda since 2006 and they have four children.