For nearly two decades, "South Park" has made us laugh while making plenty of points that nobody can disagree with. In this week's episode, "Freemium isn't Free," Trey Parker and Matt Stone took on the deceptions of the smartphone gaming industry, and spent a minute to do the same for the alcohol marketing industry with this NSFW parody of "Drinks Responsibly" ads:
For those of you too young or too employed to watch the clip, it depicts quick-cut scenes of booze-chugging and hedonistic excess, followed by the slightly hypocritical admonition to...well...not do any of that stuff, because where would you ever get that idea?
Marketers having-their-cake-shot-and-drinking-it-too isn't just a product of Trey's and Matt's imaginations. A study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in September, found that even though nearly "nine out of 10 [alcohol ads] encourage responsibility," none of them actually explain when to cut yourself off or hand over the keys.
Many of the ads "directly contradicted" their own advice to enjoy in moderation. "For example, a vodka ad displayed a photograph of an open pour of alcohol with a tagline that implied the drinker had been partying all night," the Johns Hopkins researchers said in a press release. "In small lettering, the same ad advised the audience to enjoy the product responsibly."
The warnings aren't legally required, and companies naturally want to maximize sales; that's the purpose of a commercial. But if the guys behind "South Park," who aren't exactly prohibitionists, are calling you out for saying one thing and making another look awesome, it may be time for a little truth in advertising.