The thing about Apple ads is that even when they're bad, they're usually still good. Compared to the marketing efforts of Apple's peers, the company's TV commercials have been pretty much golden since the early 2000s. And some of the best ads Apple has ever released are for the market-defining iPad.
Going by the list of iPad ads compiled by the EveryAppleAd account on YouTube, there are a total of 24 ads for the iPad (not counting variations of the longer "Your Verse" ad). They've been gradually tapering off a bit in terms of frequency, with only one released so far in 2014 and four in 2013 compared to eight in 2012, but still arrive on a relatively predictable schedule.
After repeat viewings of every ad -- on top of the dozens of times I likely sat through each one during a commercial break -- there are many that stand out as fantastic, and others that miss the mark. Here are all 24 of them, ranked from best to worst.
1. iPad Air- Pencil (2013) - I can't remember another Apple ad that deliberately tricks the viewer for as long as this one does, and if one does exist, it definitely isn't pulled off this well. Like a good movie, this ad is even entertaining to watch after you know the twist ending. Delightful.
2. iPad 2- Now (2011) - Of all the iPad ads since the device was first introduced, this one does the best job of showing how the device can actually change the way you go about your day to day life. In 2011, everything the ad showed felt futuristic (and still does, really), and when the narrator reminds you that you can actually do all these things right now, you immediately want the device that makes it all possible.
3. iPad- Meet iPad (2010) - This was the ad that introduced Apple's tablet to huge numbers of consumers, so it had to make a great first impression. The genius of this ad is that it doesn't show off gimmicks, but instead focuses on how we all would end up using the tablet every day. Even today the ad remains totally relevant. It's almost as though Apple was dictating how the future of consumer tablets would play out, and as the first iPad ad to hit TV screens, this one got it totally right.
4. iPad Air- Your Verse (2014) - Depending on your outlook, this one can come across as either extremely powerful or heavy-handed. If you don't buy into the idea that a company and its devices can change the world, it will probably strike you as the latter. Unfortunately for you, you'd already be mistaken.
5. iPad- What is iPad (2010) - "It's already a revolution, and it's only just begun." Probably the most accurate tagline ever slapped onto the end of an Apple ad.
6. iPad 2- We'll always (2011) - Apple finally goes after the heartstrings. It's a day in the life of Mr. & Mrs. John Q Taxpayer -- reading a book, attending a work meeting, preparing a home-cooked meal, and then some time with the youngster. Big points for that.
7. iPad 2- Love (2011) - Yes, you're going to love the iPad, but you're going to love it because it's a tool to help you do the things you already love to do. That's a message a lot of companies overlook.
8. iPad- iPad is delicious (2010) - It looks extremely dated now, but this one had a big wow factor in 2010. Multi-touch gaming, augmented reality, and artistic endeavors on a touch screen were all still "new" to a huge number of consumers, and it exploited that wonderfully.
9. iPad- iPad is Amazing (2010) - An important step towards showing that the iPad can be a work and play device. Nothing special, but certainly not bad.
10. iPad 3- This good (2012) - The one standout of the iPad 3 ads, it puts a huge focus on the screen quality with good imagery that makes you believe the screen is better than the ones you've seen before.
11. iPad mini- Books (2012) - The iPad mini looks like it was made for eBooks, so that's a great focus for one of the public's first glimpses of the smaller tablet.
12. iPad 2- We believe (2011) - In a rare move, the focus is taken off of the consumer and placed instead on Apple, and what the company is trying to accomplish. Apple doesn't often reference itself in its marketing, which ads some weight to an already meaningful message.
13. iPad- iPad is electric (2010) - Probably the second best ad in the "iPad is" campaign. It's a little bit on the ho-hum side until the guitar paired with the AmpliTube app rescues it at the end.
14. iPad mini- Piano (2012) - Giving the mini the more complicated role here was a great way to show that just because it's smaller doesn't mean it's any less capable. It's also a great way to show that the screen is still large enough that touchscreen tasks aren't a problem.
15. iPad 2- If you (2011) - Showing the tablet doing a bunch of cool stuff without anyone actually using it? There's a message of unending progress in the dialogue, but overall it seems to be an excuse to show the iPad in a bunch of familiar settings. Pretty average.
16. iPad 2- Learn (2011) - It feels like the obligatory "You can use this thing to learn about stuff" ad, which is fine, but it's not the easiest thing to get excited about.
17. iPad 3- All on iPad (2012) - The iPad 3's biggest new feature was the Retina display, but that's something that is really difficult to show off on a TV commercial. Instead, Apple decided to remind us what we can do with the device, while mentioning the new display as a footnote. Bummer.
18. iPad- iPad is music (2010) - Stonehenge sells this one for me, but overall it's pretty straightforward. Zooming on a video, playing a rough-looking NFL game, and preparing a presentation are fine uses of the iPad, but without one or two more punchy items it's an underwhelming package.
19. iPad 3- Do it all (2012) - Largely the same as the "All on iPad" ad. A rehash of things we already know we can do.
20. iPad mini- Photos (2012) - Meh. A nice reminder that iPads exist.
21. iPad- Hollywood (2013) - This is where I'm probably going to draw some ire. I can't stand any of these rapid-word-yelling ads. There are three in total and none of them strike me as anything but annoying. The first time you see them, they are a bit jarring, and with every repeat viewing they become more and more irritating. It actually became a game in my household to yell a different obscenity during these ads whenever they would appear, just to keep us from smashing the TV. In short, all three of them are "Ba-da-ba-da-ba-da-ba-da-ba-da-ba-BULLSHIT!"
22. iPad- Together (2013) - See above.
23. iPad- Alive (2013) - See above.
24. iPad mini- I'll Be Home (2012) - More awkward than sentimental. It captures the strange feeling you get when you're talking to a human face on your tablet -- you feel like you should be doing something or saying something, but don't know what. I'm sorry, grandpa, but I don't know what you want me to do.
Ranking them in terms of appeal and overall message is no easy task, and some of it is personal preference, so feel free to voice your tastes in the comments.