Apple’s New Ad Champions Privacy by Reminding Us About Everything We’d Rather Keep Quiet

Each cringe-inducing scene relates to a specific privacy feature

Your intraoffice messages are rarely as private as you think. Apple
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Some of our personal data needs to be kept private to protect us from hackers and thieves. But a lot of it is just flat-out embarrassing.

Apple covers both groupings of info we like to keep quiet in its new ad from TBWA\Media Arts Lab, which creates a satirical world where people loudly broadcast their inner thoughts, private conversations and personal data.

While the spot, called “Over Sharing,” doesn’t seem at first blush like it gets into specifics on how Apple integrates privacy into its devices and first-party apps. But each scenario is actually a subtle reference to a real feature.

Before we get into those, let’s watch the ad:

Here are the specific Apple privacy features being referenced in the ad, by highlighting a world in which such protections weren’t in place (or where we just really liked oversharing):

• “I browsed eight sites for divorce attorneys today.” This scene is a reference to Safari’s Intelligent Tracking Prevention aimed at keeping advertisers from tracking your browsing data for use in retargeting.

• “I hate Lee, though. Puke emoji.” Your Slack and Zoom messages at work aren’t nearly as private as many think. While Apple is not specifically referencing a work chat feature here, it’s reminding viewers that iMessages feature end-to-end encryption and can’t be reviewed by your boss.

• “My home is in 1,000 feet.” Per Apple, Maps doesn’t associate your location with your Apple ID or keep a history of where you’ve been.

• “I purchased prenatal vitamins and four pregnancy tests.” The brand says Apple Pay and Wallet protect all information about your purchases, meaning Apple doesn’t know what you’ve bought, when it was purchased or how much you paid.

• “The number on my credit card is…” Credit or debit card numbers used with your Apple device are reportedly never shared with Apple, which also doesn’t keep transaction information that can be traced back to a user.

The spot comes as Apple continues to make a concerted effort around highlighting its moves to protect consumer privacy while still making devices and apps feel effortless and personalized—a difficult balance. Essentially, the brand wants you to think of its devices and software as knowing everything about you, without sharing that info with anyone, including Apple itself.

In June, Apple announced a litany of privacy-centric features and policies at its Worldwide Developers Conference. For example, updates required third-party apps to receive users’ permission to access their data, and iOS 14 requires app developers to disclose the data they collect and which companies it’s shared with.

Privacy features were also a key pillar of Apple’s 2019 WWDC announcements, which focused on the addition of a “Sign In With Apple” option to compete with popular cross-app login platforms like Google and Facebook.

This certainly isn’t the first time Apple has put privacy front and center in its marketing efforts.

At CES 2019, Apple ran a massive out-of-home ad outside the Las Vegas event with the headline, “What happens on your iPhone, stays on your iPhone.”

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."