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South Park turns its satirical beating stick on the ad industry


By Tony Connelly | Sports Marketing Reporter

November 20, 2015 | 3 min read

South Park has turned its satirical aim towards the ad industry in its latest episode which criticises advertisers for the lack of clarity over ads and editorial content while also touching on the battle over ad blockers.

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The debates, which have been intensifying within the publishing and advertising industries recently, have now been thrust into popular culture thanks to the latest episode, titled ‘Sponsored Content’ in the 19th season of the hugely popular satirical cartoon.

It is unlikely to generate any sympathy for publishers however as the advertisers in the episode are portrayed as manipulative powerhouses trying to take advantage of disabled student Jimmy and his anti-advertising stance in the local school paper.

The narrative follows Jimmy’s disagreement with the school principle’s demands that, as editor of the school newspaper, he must ensure that all content is pre-approved by advertisers. He refuses and instead delivers an ad-free newspaper door-to-door which quickly catches on with the adult characters that are weary of an internet mediascape drowned in advertising.

The show's critical stance of intrusive advertising is summed up well in the panicked rant of one of the adults, Butter’s dad, when he says: “I tried ad blockers but it seemed like every time I tried to block the ads they just got smarter."

His rant continues: “I feel like I'm always trying to chase the news somehow.

“It's like I'm in a black void trying to reach the news story. But then the next thing I know I'm reading an ad for Geico. So I click out of that and try to read the news story — but it's not a news story it's a slideshow, and I'm looking at the worst celebrity plastic surgery jobs ever."

Later Jimmy finds himself under pressure from Geico advertising executives who offer him $26m to write Geico sponsored content in his newspaper.

The ad exec says: "Everyone's doing it, Jim. You're sort of the last holdout. $26 million just to write some new stories that get people thinking about their insurance coverage?"

In typical South Park fashion the ad ends in a brilliantly ridiculous manner with a cliff-hanger revelation that Leslie, a new student introduced this season, and possibly the school principal, are not humans but ads that have adapted to their environment.

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