'Last Week Tonight With John Oliver' Can't Sell Sexual Wellness Blanket

Sponsored TV content is everywhere. Not just off-hour periods -- late night, early morning, weekends -- but also in and around those more viewable, early, local evening news time periods.

HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” had a strong take on this -- making fun at the expense of the media business. And more -- delivering a sharp prank to three TV stations.

Crazy products/services on late-night TV can seem plausible -- at times. And no doubt many hawkers believe their messaging. But what about products that are entirely phony from the start? What should TV stations do? What about consumers?

In that regard, Oliver and his team came up with a faux product -- a “sexual wellness blanket” called Venus Veil -- a totally made-up product, presented by an actress on three TV stations in news-like segments.



Those stations -- KVUE-TV in Austin, Texas.; KMGH-TV, Denver, Colorado; and KTVX-TV, Salt Lake City, Utah -- apparently did little to check out the product's viability.

We know local TV stations are crazily dependent on ad revenue sold on their growing news content programming -- this includes added TV news-like programming for fringe news content.

“Last Week Tonight” may not be breaking news here. But it is a reminder that as the streaming and digital world pus a slow kibosh on many areas of local TV stations' business, this kind of content -- which many will call “content marketing” -- will search for a home.

To be fair, at the same time, one can also point fingers at perhaps bigger ad-fraud issues in digital media. But that’s another story.

The bottom line was the ease with which Oliver says the Venus Veil product made its deals with those three TV stations to get its segments played -- paying $2,800 at the Denver TV station, S2,650 in Austin, and $1,705 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

But we still have questions. What consumers searched online for this product? It would be good to see the search activity data -- which might take one to a specific site.

A slick, realistic VenusVeil product appears in the link -- “” -- with some enticing copy: “Turn up the heat with the world’s first sexual wellness blanket, stylishly designed to look great in your home.”

But there is no actual way to buy the product. In addition, there are these important notes on the site: “Stock photos. Posed by models,” “Paid actor portrayals,” as well as perhaps the most revealing blurb: “Venue Veil -- in development!”

Maybe that should have been a clue.

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