Press, Pause

Beyond misunderstanding its iPad consumer base, Apple’s infamous “Crush” ad deeply misunderstands the role of the hydraulic press in meme culture.

By Ernie Smith

Anyone who has watched YouTube or TikTok with any regularity has likely fallen down a hydraulic press rabbit hole. Simply watching common objects get destroyed over and over again effectively plays into the ASMR nature of online video.

A big part of that is a general understanding that, yes, the hydraulic press is a destructive beast, and is capable of destroying things that are usually difficult to destroy. It can crush diamonds. And tungsten.

First patented in 1795 by Joseph Bramah, this feat of engineering came to define the Industrial Revolution in a real way, and was a key element of many factories. But these days, the hydraulic press is so closely associated with destroying things on YouTube that the Hydraulic Press Channel had to make a series on its behind-the-scenes channel to show what hydraulic presses are actually meant to do in a real-world setting:

Which is to say the public understanding of hydraulic presses is “crushing things to oblivion.” It is amazing how compelling a soulless machine destroying stuff usually is.

Key word, soulless.


Blogger on the cheap? Get to know Namecheap

If you’re like me, you’re looking for a way to keep your online writing habit cost-effective and easy to manage. This is a spot where Namecheap excels—something that you likely know well if you have a domain through them. (I, personally, have several.)

But they don’t just do domains. Did you know, for example, you can set up an LLC with NameCheap’s help, or manage your website’s SEO presence? Oh, and they offer a bunch of web hosting services, too. I know, right?

This week, in honor of its Bloggers’ Week, the service is offering discounts on its entire array of services, which include website hosting, social media management, and even security services. It’s everything a blogger needs to get going. Check out the sale prices before May 13!

To me, this gets at the problem with Apple’s now-infamous “Crush” ad, released this week to promote the iPad Pro’s overwhelmingly thin nature. I’m sure Apple thought this was a clever way of highlighting the creative destruction that has shaped the company’s fortunes over the past 48 years. But the average person just sees soulless destruction.

The ad doesn’t connect because the message it’s trying to promote is essentially completely at odds with our understanding of the hydraulic press, which we only understand as a device that breaks things in the most brutal way possible. There’s no intelligence at all, artificial or otherwise. It just crushes things.

The result is that Apple had to apologize for this ad, this deep misunderstanding of meme culture that conveys itself so minimally that there’s little room for Apple’s intended subtext. It looks like Apple is crushing culture to give us a screen. It suggests that there is no longer any room for the physical things we love that inspire us.

One could say that this gets to the heart of Apple’s bigger issues as a company, its seeming lack of understanding of how people actually work, as reflected by its repeated failure to make a Mac Pro professional people actually want to buy. The fact that its designs seem focused on the things that people don’t care about, such as thinness at all costs, and haven’t felt genuinely creative in a long time. And then there’s the company’s tendency to not meet people halfway with their needs. It feels like every complaint about Apple’s business model has been combined into a single ad. The fact that it saw the light of day suggests that the people who work at the highest levels of the company don’t understand why Apple is great.

I have not seen Apple make a party foul like this, ever. It is embarrassing enough that it may impact the success of this iteration of iPad, because it has signaled to its very target audience that they do not understand why they buy iPads. (The apology’s immediacy speaks to how big of a mistake it is. Usually the apology is soft-pedaled over a period of four years.)

In the nearly two years since Apple last released an iPad, a lot of folks have made YouTube videos explaining what they want to see from this device. They would like the product line to be less confusing and complex. They would like to see the software better attuned to their needs. The feedback has been thoughtful and complex, and it has come from lots of sources. And Apple appears to have ignored nearly all the free advice offered by its biggest fans.

Instead, the company’s ad agency seems to have focused on the popularity of hydraulic presses without properly engaging with why people find hydraulic press videos interesting, for a product that is thinner and faster without properly engaging with why thinness and speed are virtues for a tablet.

If the hydraulic press is a metaphor for everything that’s wrong with Apple’s strategy to reach creatives in 2024, the process that led to it is a metaphor for why this device leaves so many people out in the cold.

But it’s important to note that “so many” is not everyone, and that nuance means something. Before I leave this topic, I want to give a shout-out to someone who I engaged with on Mastodon the other night named Denny Henke. Henke is an interesting guy who runs a little one-person creative agency, and swears by his iPad. Much of his blogging tries to defend this tool of his trade. I don’t think I totally see eye to eye with him on whether the iPad is good enough for its use case, but I think it needs to be said that folks like him need to be a part of the conversation, and too often aren’t. He seems like he’s found his stance fair and square, and it’s well-earned.

I am not convinced that Apple is doing a great job targeting users like him with their marketing—there was a scene in Tuesday’s keynote where an iPad was being used to manage a video shoot that struck me as particularly off-key—but I will not deny that they’re out there and they exist. I think the real problem is that Apple has not done a particularly good job of closing the gap between iPad users, many of whom did not grow up with traditional computing experiences, and Mac users, who did and have largely been left out of the touchscreen revolution for what feel like purely business reasons.

Let’s maybe not use giant hydraulic presses to reach them, though.

Not-So-Pressing Links

Vulture agrees with me about John Mulaney’s pop-up show being awesome.

Speaking of follow-ups on things we covered a bit ago, I see that Panera is dropping its Charged Lemonades, which are nearly as party-fouly as the Apple ad above it. But the Apple ad isn’t linked to any deaths.

I think it’s always saddest when a musician dies immediately before the release of an album and tour, and that’s what happened to legendary recording engineer (not producer) Steve Albini this week. In his honor (he is getting some amazing plaudits, BTW), here’s a video someone posted of him performing with Shellac in a surprise 2019 set, and here’s a link to the best article ever written, with the best kicker of all time. I know, it’s disappointing that someone who was not a full-time writer wrote it.


Find this one an interesting read? Share it with a pal! And be sure to check out Namecheap’s Bloggers’ Week deals before they fade away.

Ernie Smith

Your time was just wasted by Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the editor of Tedium, and an active internet snarker. Between his many internet side projects, he finds time to hang out with his wife Cat, who's funnier than he is.

Find me on: Website Twitter