“South Park” jumped into the ad blocking and native advertising debate during the latest episode on Wednesday night, dubbed “Sponsored Content.”
The episode saw PC Principal upset with the school newspaper for using a derogatory word about disabled people on its front page splash. He demands to know who the editor is — and it turns out one the show’s disabled characters, Jimmy, has taken on the new role of newsman.
Jimmy is an editor of principle who is against censorship from the school or other corporations and decides the “Super School News” newspaper — despite gaining in popularity as he distributes it around town — won’t display any ads, either traditional ads or sponsored content.
Butters’ dad explains how difficult it is to distinguish news from sponsored content ads online.
Later on, the entire town decides to essentially block internet ads in favour of reading the ad-free school newspaper rather than getting their news online.
At one point, Jimmy almost gets swayed by Geico, which offers him a $US26 million check to sponsor the paper. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which side you look at it from) he is saved from the sponsorship deal by Officer Barbrady.
Later, Jimmy undergoes testing to verify his superhuman ability to discern real news stories from ads — something the show suggests the average human can no longer do.
His skill is matched by another character, Leslie, who turns out to be “Sponsored Content” itself — an ad for State Farm. And it turns out PC Principal is an ad for State Farm too!
Of course, the episode is also packed with lots of other NSFW, non-advertising/ad-blocking action. But nevertheless, the decision from the writers of South Park to cover topics such as clickbait, native advertising, and ad blocking show how the debate has moved from within a niche bubble among the advertising and publishing industries to the mainstream.
And not only did viewers understand it. They loved it, judging by the reaction on Twitter:
South Park is roasting gallery sites with ads????
— Steven (@Bor3r) November 19, 2015
If you’re in the US, you can watch “Sponsored Content” on Comedy Central’s website here.
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