This Generic Brand Video Is The Greatest Thing About The Absolute Worst In Advertising

Stock footage brand Dissolve puts its product to good use to call out lazy marketers peddling empty ideas.

It's just perfect. Everything is in there. The scientists with beakers, synonyms for progress, powerful rushing water, a baby, a blue-collar guy with dirt on his face, time-lapse footage of a city at night. Since the dawn of time, these have been the images used by marketers who just didn't quite manage to have an actual idea. The images, when combined with a solemn voiceover, form the basis of one of the most enduring, and enduringly bad, ad templates--the old "shoot-the-brief montage." Recently, it seems as though more and more advertisers are reaching for this chestnut, so this parody comes at a particularly good time.

To illustrate this marketing strategy equivalent of paint-by-numbers, stock video footage firm Dissolve took its goods and created a masterpiece with the words of Kendra Eash's brilliant McSweeney's piece.

This spoof should make a lot of advertisers cringe for how little it actually exaggerates. It actually reflects a lot of what is trotted out to catch consumers' attention, whether for a car, a computer, a power company, a cholesterol drug, whatever. We're surrounded by this meaningless tripe all the time--a montage of images with little to no actual connection to the product, combined with a ponderous voiceover reading copy offering vague platitudes on progress, innovation, and/or the future.

Think it's an over-the-top spoof? There are plenty of actual ads just like this video, and many more that could be considered close cousins to this format. In fact, we notice that more and more advertisers--advertisers that you wouldn't necessarily expect it from--are opting for the shoot-the-brief montage.

Meet this Acura spot from 2013. "Man is a determined creature, no matter the circumstance, opposition, or even understanding. There's an inherent calling to seek. Push. Improve. Transcend. It's a perpetual process. A necessity of the human spirit." Space exploration? Cure for cancer? Nope, it's an SUV.

Or maybe you'd prefer a Mazda commercial that compares the conviction of Bruce Lee, creativity of Frank Lloyd Wright, and courage of Jackie Robinson to how the car company made its Mazda3 model. Yes, the bravery behind your entry-level sedan is EXACTLY like desegregating professional baseball.

At least the car brands have a product shot to work with. Energy companies are often the champion of stock footage. This spot for Suncor could almost use Eash's piece word for word.

Cisco really hits some high notes here, nabbing a good portion of the generic brand ad checklist. Racial diversity? Check. Stop-motion? Check. Baby? Oh, hells yes.

The only downside to Dissolve's spoof spot is that it could scare away potential clients, forcing them instead to dig deep for something resembling an original and honest thought.

Add New Comment


  • Matt McDermott

    Interesting piece. You couch it as creative laziness but I think it's as much of a budget issue as anything. I own a small business with a single location. As much as I'd love to fly a film crew to Tokyo for the high speed rail shot, I have to rely on options like stock footage, woven together with local shots to put a production together without it looking like a used car dealer ad.

  • Thomas Holt

    The problem isn't local businesses using their stock footage to increase the production value of their ad, which is a very good thing, and exactly why we have stock footage, but Large companies who use a formula to create a "universal" ad which doesn't really say anything except "Speed. Culture. Babies. Like us, and buy our product".

  • Robert Chernisky

    This is fantastic. I am so sick and tired of fighting the mainstream marketing campaigns of those who aren't truly interested in helping the potential customers. Our company actually just wants to help those customers that we can, not manipulate everyone into purchasing a little something from us to grow our coffers. How do we expose this intellectual fraud marketing style exposed so that the truth can assist both the honest marketers and the researching customers?

  • Sonia Best-Koetting

    It's easy to like this. Makes us laugh. I think the bigger point is that regardless of all the data a company or agency can muster, it's done this way because emotion leads our buying impulses. Why else isn't Consumer Reports as popular as tabloids? We seek emotional comfort first — facts be damned. The challenge for Dissolve, having recognized the algorithm, is to present facts with the same emotional appeal.

  • Betsy Fenik

    And lastly, that patriarchal, confidence inspiring "narrator voice". Makes you feel safe and taken care of.

  • A great post.
    I always sat there following the Acura Made for Mankind spots and said..., wtf? Does that mean anything? What did it cost to say nothing?

    Where is my bland crayon?

    Cisco? Ride off into the sunset with Pancho!

  • Jordan Stone

    so glad/proud to see some1 taking on this issue. finally the patterned sock wearing pseudo-creatives on Madison Ave (well, I guess they are more in SoHo now) are being held accountable for their bland and repetitive anthem work. Plz do not try to pull the Merino wool over our eyes. I will admit that even I was fooled for a minute by Mike Mills Cisco spot, Tomorrow Starts Here. It almost seemed like it was an amazing little film. But then I saw this. Thank #God. I sincerely hope that Kendra Eash never allows her original work/"proze" to be coøpted by a brand or the creative incubi of the ad world.

  • So, everyone is saying pretty much the same thing here, in regards to how transparent this type of advertising is, and yet, it's still being done, so it must be producing the desired results.

  • So, everyone is saying pretty much the same thing here, in regards to how transparent this type of advertising is, and yet, it's still being done, so it must be producing the desired results.

  • Nice ad, and I watched it ONLY because it was Advertised as the Greatest Thing About the Worst..." (which itself is a universal marketing technique) and I'm fascinated by marketing techniques and what they teach about human nature. This is actually a good learning tool to use as a template for how to advertise elegantly. So what if there is no actual content!

    That's not the point, the point is, WHATEVER your original idea (and pleeeeeeeez give us GOOD ideas, not crappy ones) that you can insert the idea and wrap it up in beautiful elegant imagery that really does work to inspire us. That's what the advertising industry is about, supplying the gift wrap (which is itself literally a modern construct) and we, as the thought leaders need to supply the good content. Because most people, being normal humans, do respond to such gift wrap positively if it fits with our basic human instincts for beauty, nobility, harmony. I would love to have a copy to use myself as a template!