This season South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone have taken a very big swipe at ad blocking and sponsored content. Never shy to address any high profile subject, the show took a satirical look at how we cannot avoid ads in the episodes “Sponsored Content” and “Truth and Advertising”.
One thing’s for sure; if the topic has attracted the attention of Parker and Stone then it is big news. There’s no doubt that advertisers are becoming more creative in their attempt to escape the ad blocking which has risen in popularity, especially among the younger generation.
In the Sponsored Content episode of South Park Jimmy, the editor of the school newspaper decides to deliver the paper door to door rather than succumb to the school’s requirements to agree all content. The move is met with great joy by parents with one talking about how he is used to having to get his news from the Internet where he is bombarded with adverts. He’s trying to read a news story and he gets an ad for Geico. He clicks to get away from the ad and back to the news story and is instead directed to some celebrity gossip. Most people can probably relate to this experience. As the popularity of Jimmy’s newspaper grows, so he is approached to write sponsored content for Geico and is offered $26 million to do so. The people from Geico explain that because people have started to try and avoid ads, with tools such as ad blocking software, ads have had to evolve and disguise themselves as news. At the end of the episode Leslie, a new student at the school, is revealed to be possibly not human but an ad that has evolved.
The Truth and Advertising episode of South Park further explores the story of Leslie. Jimmy talks about the ways people have tried to avoid ads, including TiVo and now ad blocking. He speaks of how ads had to disguise themselves as news to combat these attempts and have now taken human form; in reference to Leslie. The rest of the episode looks at how ads, in the shape of Leslie in this case, are trying to take over and destroy the human race. As with any mainstream subject, the treatment of ad blocking and sponsored content by South Park is larger than life; but it is based in reality. The more people try and escape ads, the more the ads have to evolve to survive; although it’s unlikely we will ever see a real life Leslie.