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  • 11.06.14

In Just 26 Seconds, “South Park” Nails The Hypocrisy Of Alcohol Advertising

The latest “South Park” brilliantly parodies the way alcohol brands shoehorn “Drink Responsibly” messages in ads that otherwise celebrate decadence.

In Just 26 Seconds, “South Park” Nails The Hypocrisy Of Alcohol Advertising

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Perhaps not since Schmitt’s Gay has anyone so effectively upended the conventions of alcohol advertising.


The most recent episode of South Park, “Freemium Isn’t Free,” compared and contrasted several forms of modern day addiction. Since one of these vices was, of course, alcohol, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and co. took the opportunity to parody commercials for the stuff. Since beer ads are almost universally embarrassing, there’s a wide open field of options for making fun of them to choose from, but the writers of the show went with the inherent hypocrisy of what’s really being sold in these ads.

Budweiser isn’t really the commodity in commercials for Budweiser–it’s the kickass good time that goes along with it. Budweiser is just the goofjuice that gets you to the good time. Ads are not exactly subtle about this point. Where the hypocrisy comes in is that at the end of the ad, a message flashes so briefly that it could hardly be qualified as an afterthought, letting potential good time-havers know that they should also drink responsibly. You know, exactly the opposite of what the behavior in the ad suggests?


In just 26 seconds, the South Park version of an alcohol ad demonstrates the paradoxical nature of pairing this warning with this style of advertising. It pounds you over the head with a tack hammer and whispers in your ear that tack hammers are dangerous.

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.

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