When it comes to sponsored content, the team over at Last Week Tonight are experts — just ask them about their Venus Veil. On Sunday's episode, host John Oliver revealed that his staff tricked local news stations into promoting the Venus Veil, a blanket that purportedly enhances sexual satisfaction, on-air to prove just how quickly misinformation can spread. That's certainly one way to make your point.
Last night, the bulk of Oliver's broadcast centered on sponsored content and the dangers of a far-too-trusting local news environment. Many local stations sell advertisements in the form of "sponsored content," or product-oriented "segments," a practice that Oliver's staff took advantage of with their Venus Veil. "We started a company called Venus Inventions, and created something called the Venus Veil, an absurd medical product based on technology that absolutely does not exist," he explained. "We set up this website, and even hired an actress to brandigrate the s**t out of the Venus Veil into shows it had no business being on."
The Venus Veil con ultimately made its way to ABC4 Utah, a Salt Lake City affiliate, where a hired actress promised that the product will "precisely draw out the natural alkaline undercurrents of the vagina" for maximum pleasure. "It's using this field of magneto-genetics I was talking about, and also a technology that's been around for a really long time that was pioneered in Germany about 80 years ago. So this is full of cutting-edge technology, but it just looks like a blanket."
After a successful appearance, Oliver's Venus Veil made its way to KVUE in Austin, another ABC affiliate, and Mile High Living on Denver's ABC station. "The truth is, none of this was nearly difficult enough to get on TV, and it wasn't even that expensive!" said the HBO host, revealing that the Denver spot cost just $2,800, compared to $2,650 in Austin, and only $1,750 in Salt Lake City. "It was all shockingly affordable, and sadly, on some stations, didn't even look that out of place."
"To the owners of these stations who are selling them out at a depressingly cheap price, I have a simple question," concluded Oliver. "The f**k are you doing?!"
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver airs Sundays at 11:00 PM ET on HBO.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.