Dear Apple, Ads Like This Are Irresponsible


published on September 17, 2020

In a highly-praised new ad, Apple makes a courageous carbon neutral promise.

AdAge, a daily must-read for decision makers and disruptors across the marketing and media landscape, praises the ad. Their headline reads: “Apple makes a bold promise in ad starring zero products and one very cute baby: company commits to being completely carbon-neutral by 2030.”

But, AdAge, your headline could just as easily read: “Apple makes a bold move starring one very cute baby in a very unsafe sleep environment: company commits egregious error in announcing carbon-neutral commitment.”

Both are accurate.

I write this as a fan of AdAge, Apple and planet earth (she says as she types on her MacBook while listening to iTunes through her AirPods drinking from a reusable bottle). But more than my appreciation for slick advertising and sleek technology, I’m interested in keeping babies safe and alive. I wish I could watch this artsy Apple ad about their new found commitment to planet earth and feel all the feels and go about my day.

But, the ad in which baby Idan is lying alone in an adult bed surrounded by pillows is dangerous.

Apple’s commitment to be totally carbon-neutral in 10 years won’t mean a whole lot if baby Idan dies in an unsafe sleep environment. Dead babies can’t care about corporate policies and do-good commitments.

How bad is it?

Really bad. More babies die every year from Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID) than all 0-21 year olds die from car accidents, gun violence, suicide and drug abuse.*

Approximately 3,700 infants die of SUID each year in the United States —that’s one baby every two hours. Even sadder, these deaths are largely preventable – with most having died with at least one modifiable unsafe sleep risk factor.**

In this Apple ad, baby Idan, who is already at two times greater risk simply because he is Black**** is up against at least three environmental risk factors: sleeping in an adult bed, surrounded by pillows, with blankets in the bed.

It’s Time to Wake Up

So, here’s what I want to ask the creatives at Apple. Would it make a difference if Idan was laying on the floor in an empty room? Or better, laying in his own crib? Would it have changed the message? Would you still reduce carbon and help slow global warming? Would you receive any less admiration or support for your bold corporate moves? No.

Advertisers wouldn’t dream of placing an infant in the back of a moving car without a car seat. They wouldn’t show infants floating in a pool without a life jacket or parents nearby. They wouldn’t put a five-year-old on a bike without a helmet. Yet, these same advertisers think nothing of placing an infant at risk in an adult bed. It’s time for marketers to get acquainted with safety standards, and wake up so more babies have a chance to.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends babies sleep Alone (in their own environment free of blankets, pillows and people), on their Back, in a CRIB for every single sleep.*** Any tired parent knows that following this advice takes strength, guts and motivation. A single encounter that justifies an unsafe practice can lead to weakening resolve and devastating consequences.

Not convinced? Ask my friends Maura and Sam Hanke. They lost their son Charlie at just three weeks old when Sam laid down on the couch with him asleep on his chest. Sam woke up, Charlie didn’t. Unsafe sleep choices happen in split second decisions by exhausted parents. Normalizing any kind of unsafe behavior, like placing a baby in an adult bed, puts more infants at risk. It supports the narrative that babies can sleep anywhere, anytime.

I am one of many safe sleep advocates motivated by grief and loss. I am sick and tired of having to explain basic infant sleep safety to ad makers that have a cute idea. What ad makers don’t realize is the impact of their creative decisions is heavy and far reaching.

Advertisers Put Infants At Risk

A company, like Apple – long considered a thought leader – has the opportunity to influence millions. With their incredible reach, their advertising has big impact. Showing Idan in an unsafe environment tells millions of parents that it’s ok.

So says the AAP. In its guidelines for a safe sleep environment, the AAP recommends that media, companies, and other organizations follow safe sleep guidelines in their messaging and advertising. The AAP, in making this recommendation, cited research on the impact of media exposures, advertising, and store displays on individual behavior by influencing beliefs and attitudes. The images portraying unsafe sleep practices may create misinformation among parents and other infant caregivers, thus putting infants at risk.***

Parenting and safe sleep are hard enough. We need allies. If safe sleep advocacy isn’t in a company’s marketing niche, that’s ok. We just kindly ask they don’t make our job harder. Decision makers should know what is safe and stop the accidental commentary on what is normal and permissible, especially when it is unsafe. Safe sleep is and should be everyone’s business.

Apple, you go first. Show baby Idan in the correct sleep environment. PLEASE. This ad and your commitment to the earth and humans would be even more powerful if Idan was safe.

*CDC Wonder Data, Image created by Bill Rapp

**Shapiro-Mendoza CK, Camperlengo L, Ludvigsen R, Cottengim C, Anderson RN,

Andrew T, et al. Classification system for the sudden unexpected infant death case registry and its application. Pediatrics. 2014;134(1):e210-e9.

***AAP Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, Moon RY. 2016. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics 138(5): e20162938 (policy statement); e20162940 (technical report).