John Oliver is taking on sponsored content in this week’s show, going as far as to create his own fake product to prove his point. On last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight, Oliver took viewers through the alarmingly simple process of marketing a product, no matter how bogus, to a far-reaching audience. “It’s far too easy to make a ridiculous product that makes outlandish claims and get it onto local TV,” Oliver said. “And the reason I know that is, we did.”
Oliver and his team started the company Venus Inventions to create a product they called the Venus Veil, which they then marketed as a sexual enhancement blanket, Yahoo Entertainment reports. In reality, it’s “an absurd medical product based on technology that absolutely doesn’t exist,” Oliver admitted.
After creating a fake website and hiring an actress to promote the Venus Veil, Last Week Tonight went to multiple local news stations to pitch their product, which they got on air with an ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City, Utah. The actress they hired to shill the Venus Veil then touted ridiculous medical claims to the audience, telling the affiliate’s chief medical correspondent all of the product’s benefits.
“The Veil is being designed with the hope that it will precisely draw out the natural alkaline undercurrents of the vagina, and initiate a low-grade state of what we call micro-death, which sounds incredibly scary, but that’s actually just restarting that area’s natural life cycle,” the actress said.
She added, “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.” And as Oliver pointed out, the correspondent she spoke with had no follow-up questions despite the timeline of the blanket’s “technology” — which would date back to Nazi-era Germany — or the bogus benefits of the product.
“Yup, that was on ABC 4 last Friday, and I would love to tell you that it was difficult to get on, but it really wasn’t,” Oliver said, before sharing clips of the actress on two more stations: another ABC affiliate in Austin, Texas, and an ABC affiliate in Denver, Colorado. Oliver also revealed the price of getting the Venus Veil on air, which cost less than $3,000 in both Denver and Austin, and $1,750 in Salt Lake City, prices he deemed “depressingly cheap.”
“As we have said for years now, the integrity of local news is crucially important and there is real harm for everyone if that integrity is damaged,” he said.
Last Week Tonight airs Sundays at 11/10c on HBO. Watch the full sponsored content segment in the video above.
Where to watch Last Week Tonight With John Oliver