Ad Blocking Reaches Pop Culture

Internet does not typically make for a good pop culture topic, but in recent weeks, conversation about the rise of online ad-blocking software — one of the digital media industry’s biggest worries — has spilled into the mainstream. The trend has been satirized by TV comedy show “South Park”, mentioned on Howard Stern’s popular radio program, and featured in multiple news programs and morning shows including NBC’s “Today” show.

That’s largely because Internet advertising is going through something of a rough patch, at least in terms of consumer perception. People say they’re increasingly frustrated with irritating and intrusive banners, videos and pop-ups, especially on the small screens of their mobile devices. They’re also increasingly aware of the mechanisms being used to collect information about them behind the scenes as they move across the web. And some are suspicious of “native ads” meant to blend in and look like editorial content.

During recent episodes of “South Park,” the long-running animated show on Comedy Central, the character Jimmy has the rare ability to distinguish between news and advertising. Later, a man tells Jimmy that ads adapted after humans created ad blockers. “What if I were to tell you that ads have become smarter than us, and now they’re manipulating everything we do?” the character says. Ads became sentient and adapted to “disguise themselves as news in order to survive” after humans created ad blockers, the man says.

The story line struck a chord with many consumers, and in turn was highlighted by dozens of online media outlets which, ironically, rely on “smart ads” to support their own businesses.

This comical satirization of ads and parallel plot line to the Terminator movies is a refreshing look at the what we are currently dealing with as marketers, but it only exists because often times we are a distraction to what someone is doing rather than adding value to their everyday lives. The links below show the South Park episodes in order:

1.) Sponsored Content
2.) Truth in Advertising
3.) PC Principal Final Justice