Apple’s scary event: a B-team production

You never knew exactly how Steve Jobs would react when you presented a new idea. The only thing you could count on was his brutal honesty.

But, even if he rejected the work, all was not lost. It was simply part of the process. Steve knew that creative work is often iterative, so we’d keep at it until we arrived at a place we all loved. It was a process that actually deepened our relationship over time.

That said, one meeting is seared into my brain because Steve made a particularly biting comment. Not seeing anything he liked in a range of work, he said, “Oh, so you put the B-team on this one.”


In those few words, he questioned how seriously we took the assignment, not to mention our ability to see the difference between “great” and “good enough.” Message received loud and clear. An error in judgment never repeated.

This memory came to the fore because that’s exactly how Apple’s Halloween Eve event made me feel—like the assignment had been relegated to the B-team.

Let’s start with the Halloween concept itself. Somehow, inexplicably, the team thought this was brilliant, up to and including Tim Cook.

Just imagining the pitch makes me cringe. “Hey, Halloween is coming—let’s do a primetime show with a Halloween theme! We’ll use dark backgrounds, spooky lighting, a few bats, a skeleton and phrases like scary fast and monster speed.

Frighteningly amateurish.

What made it feel tackier still was that the event simply wasn’t necessary. The new processors are newsworthy, but in the absence of any other announcements, they’re not event-worthy. This primetime scare-fest had only thirty minutes of content—too much of which was devoted to in-the-weeds explanations only a WWDC crowd could love.

The M3 story deserved fanfare on the Apple website, a healthy dose of PR and some great ads touting the new technology. Instead, we got an event that was ill-conceived and as creative as a store-bought Halloween costume.

Exactly what can be expected when you call in the B-team.