Advertising Is How Corporations Dream

And it’s a nightmare for human beings


Cillian Murphy in 28 Weeks Later

Advertising creates “an entirely different world organically connected to this one” (Amari Bakari). In ads people do ordinary things—like having periods or washing or driving cars—but in an entirely different world. In a world like ours, but uncannily not.

Watching an ad is like watching a corporation dream. Waking up, however, you realize. It’s a living nightmare for human beings.

Take this Audi ad, featuring Regé-Jean Page from Bridgerton fame. Page drives through an empty city, all focus on the car. Like every car ad, there is no traffic in this city, no parking problems, no people even. Page is alone on the roads, he parks right in front of the building, he zooms off to the horizon.

This is a recurring dream in corporate advertising, but in human cinema the same situation is a recurring nightmare. Take two movies, Devil’s Advocate and 28 Days Later.

In Devil’s Advocate (spoiler alert) the streets empty out when Keanu Reeves figures out that Satan is his father. There is no traffic because all humanity is gone. It’s terrifying.

Then take Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later. He walks through an empty London that would be perfect (a bit cleaned) up for a car ad. But it’s empty because zombies have eaten everyone. It’s the start of a horrorshow.

As you can see, cities without people are a dystopia for humans and a utopia for corporations. A cinematic nightmare and an advertising dream. The same scene that’s a fantasy during the commercial break is pure horror when the movie comes back on.

The entire parallel universe of advertising is like this. Advertising creates a universe where women menstruate blue, where creams turn…



Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at, or just email me at