If you've watched some music videos from the '90s, or checked out some album covers from the '70s, you'll notice that each of those time periods had a very strong visual aesthetic (most of us can point to a car or a pair of pants and say "70s"). The opposite is true today. If the early part of the 21st century is known for any aesthetic, I might call it The Mush; most of what we look at is a rehash, a rethink, or a rejigger of what we've seen before — and there's nothing particularly, well, particular about most of the design of the last 20 years. I can't reliably place an advertisement from 2002 or 2013 (think about it; can you tell the difference between something that was made — a movie, print ad, or TV commercial — from, say, 1983 to 1994?)

You might be wondering why. I'll posit that at least part of the problem is due to stock images, which arose because websites had a need for quick, inexpensive images for the deluge of websites that came out of the flowering of the Internet. (Disclosure: MNN uses stock images often, though not always.) But now everyone uses stock images, and stock video, in all kinds of media — including advertising. That's because creating original content is expensive and time-consuming. 

But using stock imagery also means that everything starts to look like everything else — and that a stock image from 2004 is just fine in 2014. Looking to cut costs and up efficiency (which typically leads to mediocrity, and does in this case too), advertisers and media have been using — and reusing — the same stuff over and over again. 

At the same time as we have had a dearth of original and dynamic images, a whole lot more brand advertising has been going on, wherein companies large and small don't really try to sell us anything in their ad, they just hope to get us to like their company more. They do this by touting some of the values that really, nobody can disagree about; that doing research is good, that protecting the environment is a priority, that employing people is important. Unsurprisingly, all this wishy-washiness becomes meaningless, which is exactly what the parody video below is getting at. 

My favorite line? "Also, we care about the environment — loosely." 

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

"Generic Brand Video" hilariously satirizes modern advertising
If it seems like you've seen this ad before, it's because you have. (It's made from stock images.)