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.


About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.