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What Apple's 'Pride' Ad Might Say About How the Company Is Changing


Hey, look, the new Apple isn't just the same old monolith after all.

A video released by the brand this week features thousands of the company's employees, including CEO Tim Cook, and their family members all gathering to march in last month's San Francisco Pride Parade.

It's unusual to see Apple's workers show up in its consumer advertising. It's also nice, especially in support of a worthwhile cause (even if Apple does, yes, just ultimately want to sell more gadgets). Set to Coldplay's new single "A Sky Full of Stars," the video opens on the company's prep for the parade, with rows of bicycles, and a barista pouring beverages, and staffers donning boxes-on-boxes worth of special Apple-logo T-shirts reading "Pride," before the montage crescendoes to the main event. Cook's appearance is brief, nestled among a sequence of less-recognizable faces. "Inclusion inspires innovation," says the closing copy.

That reads, though, as more than just a corporate show of force for LGBT rights, which the company has a history of supporting in its own employment policies. Everybody always knew Cook would have a hard time replacing messianic figure Steve Jobs as the face of Apple. The perhaps obvious answer, hinted at subtly here, is that Cook is not doing it alone.

After much handwringing in recent years over the new CEO's vision—or perceived lack thereof—the blueprint of Cook's Apple that's now trickling out suggests a company that's less closed off and more collaborative than during its mythic era under Jobs, a notoriously exacting master who crafted its reputation for shrouding itself in secrecy and keeping a tight focus on products—including in its advertising.

In other words, it's hard to imagine an ad featuring a smiling Jobs milling around with his underlings. Yet, here is Cook, doing just that.

The clip itself is a little slow to get off the ground, but the payoff, focused as it is on people—namely Apple staffers and the LGBT community writ large—is well worth the wait. That's something of a coup, considering the company's ill-fated detour into advertising around its corporate culture in 2013, by way of a botched attempt at a manifesto about the significance of products.

The new ad, meanwhile, also aligns with Cook's championing, including in his CEO role, of human rights broadly defined, as well as other causes like environmentalism. Such are the trappings of inheriting a powerful company with the ability, and arguably an obligation, to contribute more socially. But in 2011, Cook also made a point of saying that one of Jobs's last pieces of advice to him was never to ask what Steve Jobs would do, and instead to "just do what's right."

Maybe those who want to can still see Jobs pulling the strings, even from beyond the grave. Subtle perception games aside, that just might mean the next great Apple product everyone's been waiting for is just around the corner, too.

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