Know Thy Selfie: A Journey Into the Uncanny Valley of AI-Generated AvatarsRead Now

Illustration by Jesús Escudero
Nov. 14, 2022 6:00 AM PST

Inside Apple’s advertising department, there’s a list of forbidden words that sales representatives are told never to utter when speaking to clients.

Instead of using the term “targeting” to describe the company’s ability to deliver Apple search ads tailored to users’ tastes, Apple asks its ad sales reps to say “audience refinement,” according to three people familiar with the business. Rather than using “algorithm” to describe its technical methods for delivering ads, Apple advises the reps to use the term “platform.” Also out is “conquesting,” referring to the practice of an advertiser buying ads that show up whenever users search for rival brands, the people said. “Competitor keywords” and “brand defense” are acceptable substitutes.

While all of the banned terms are commonly used throughout the ad industry, Apple is no ordinary advertising company. It has constructed its brand around meticulously crafted hardware products, an obsession with user experiences and a diehard commitment to protecting user privacy. At the same time, its top executives have done more than just about anyone to badmouth and undermine ad-supported companies like Meta Platforms, which they accuse of spying on Apple’s users.

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