If you haven’t seen This is a Generic Brand Video, then you are missing out. It is a marvellous stock footage spoof of advertising clichés. It was made by new Canada-based stock footage library Dissolve. Another of their killer parodies is Emoji Among Us, a David-Attenborough style mockumentary, which even has a voice-over that catches the soft-voiced master of wildlife documentaries to a tee. At first I thought the great man was sending himself up, so good was the voice-actor – former BBC newsreader James Gillies – who performed the script. Instead of conventional show-reels, Dissolve have opted to create hilarious spoofs, which convey the quality of their videos via belly-laughs. This is a beguiling combination.
Launched in May 2013, they have expanded rapidly. They now have 560,000 clips on the site, with around 60, 000 added each month. Dissolve have also just begun an exclusive distribution deal with FootageBank, which adds another 80K clips to the site.
Patrick Lor is a co-founder and CEO of Dissolve. He says, “Video is such a powerful tool, and as a stock footage-only company, we needed to leverage this to its maximum potential. That’s why we decided that the standard marketing tools of showing raw footage wasn’t good enough – we need our footage to tell a story. In fact, Dissolve’s mission is to provide better footage, so that our customers can tell better stories. It was important for us to take the same path of our customers – some might call it ‘eating our own dog food’, but we essentially used our creative team to validate our products.”
“Our marketing videos seek to engage our customers – whether through humour or any other emotion.” I think that slightly underplays the viral potential of laughter – you can send these clips to friends and colleagues without having them accuse you of spamming. It also is brand recognition – even if you can’t remember the name of the company This is a Generic Brand Video calls them instantly to mind and differentiates them in the marketplace.
Dissolve’s film making is the “collaborative art of storytelling” – the six person creative team headed by Creative Director Sheldon Popiel and Brand Director Jon Parker gets together to make the videos and stock footage is only one part of the process, “We also pay tribute to all the other elements required to make great videos – story, music, sound, design, editing, and so much more. We’re so fortunate to have such great partners to collaborate with our videos – it’s part of what makes them so memorable.”
Dissolve have about 1000 contributors. They have an active “talent scouting” process, where they look out for visually gifted people, such as commercial cinematographers, still photographers or experimental film-makers and see if they would like to contribute their material. Often these individuals have never considered joining a stock footage company. Sometimes they need a little persuasion to see that Dissolve has a different ethos to the “pile ’em high sell ’em cheap” school of stock-libraries. Now that Dissolve has a significant profile, potential contributors also get in touch or even turn up on the doorstep.
Part of Dissolve’s success seems to be down to the specific Canadian culture, which is slightly less aggressive and risk-taking than Silicon Valley, but makes up for this with a more collaborative and inclusive business environment.
Patrick’s three essentials for great work are: understand your customers, understand your technology, and have excellent people skills, because people are harder to manage than machines.
Dissolve’s tag line is “Better footage, better stories,” Patrick Lor strongly believes it takes a collaboration to create something magical from the disparate elements of film making.