Twizzlers and Guacamole: John Oliver Takes Comedic Aim at Native Advertising

Twizzlers and Guacamole John Oliver Takes Comedic Aim at Native AdvertisingLooks like native advertising has truly arrived. You know it has when the discussion moves from the domain of media critics to the studios of HBO comics.

On a recent episode of the HBO comedy “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” the exuberant and uncompromising comedian got in some good licks against the proliferation of native advertising.

The bit opens honestly, with Oliver reminding audiences that “paid for” programming has been around as long as John Cameron Swayze and unapologetic plugs for Camel Cigarettes (the black and white commercial footage is fantastic).

But Oliver skewers the laissez faire attitude of modern publishers who — in their zeal to replenish declining ad revenue coffers — are destroying the time-honored “separation of church and state” that once defined advertising.

“Native advertising in news outlets is like combining Twizzlers and guacamole,” Oliver proclaims. “They’re both good, in their own way, but together?”

It’s a good long gag with guest appearances by Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti (whom Oliver wouldn’t mind punching in the face), New Yorker magazine media critic Ken Auletta (who laments that publishers are basically saying “we’ll help you make your ads look like news stories”), and Time, Inc. CEO Joseph Ripp (who comes in for skewering by dint of simple haplessness — as long as native ads “are marked,” who cares, he suggests).

There’s a riff on Atlantic Magazine’s unfortunate episode with Scientology, a swipe at corporate head fakes using Chevron as foil, and a fake Diet Coke ad that cleverly illustrates what it would look like if news was natively in-fed to an advertising spot.

Oliver’s take? His cookie analogy might take the cake.

“Native advertising is like raisins in your chocolate chip cookie,” he asserts. “Who wants them there?”

A cautionary tale or just a comedic romp? Whichever it turns out to be, it’s well worth the watch.

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