Advertising Is Content: Taskmaster Edition

from the your-time-starts-now dept

Many, many years ago on Techdirt, I wrote a lot about the idea of advertising being content (and content being advertising). The general idea was that, without captive audiences any more, you had to make your advertising into really good content that people would actually like, rather than find it annoying and intrusive.

I still think this is an important insight, but with the rise of a limited number of internet giants and (more importantly) Google and Facebook focusing on better and better ad targeting, most of the focus on ads these days hasn’t been so much on “advertising is content,” so much as “advertising is creepily and slightly inaccurately targeted, but you’re going to live with it, because that’s all you’ve got.” Still, every once in a while, we’re reminded of this idea about how advertising could actually be good content in its own right. Ironically, the example I’m about to share here… comes from Google. But we’ll get to that in a moment.

In the midst of the pandemic, I discovered the amazing UK TV show Taskmaster, which is too good to describe. It’s sort of a cross between a typical UK panel show, a game show with incredibly ridiculous tasks, and…. I dunno. Perhaps it’s the anti-Squid Game. It does involve people playing games, but it’s hilarious, not deadly. You kind of have to watch it to understand how good it is, and then you kind of can’t stop watching it. Thankfully, the first eight seasons are fully and officially available on YouTube outside the UK. The show is now on Season 12, but it appears that they’ve stopped posting full copies of the new shows to YouTube — perhaps because the show has become so popular they’re looking for a licensing deal with some streaming service or something (their content is advertising!) For what it’s worth, an attempt at a US spinoff version completely flopped because it was terrible, though other spinoffs, such as in New Zealand, have gone well. If you want to get a sense of the show, Season 1, Episode 1 is hard to beat, though it’s missing some things that became standard in later seasons. If you want to watch the show once it really hit it’s stride, seasons 4, 5 and 7 are probably the best.

Anyway, while they’re not posting full episodes any more, the Taskmaster YouTube page continues to post new content — usually clips or outtakes from the show. But last week they also posted two ads. They’re clearly labeled as ads — but they’re brand new Taskmaster content, advertising Google’s Lens feature. They involve a couple of Taskmaster contestants competing in tasks that require the use of Google Lens to compete — and they’re just as entertaining as the show, while actually showing off this Google product I didn’t even know existed. Since I’ve seen basically every available episode of Taskmaster, I thought this is a fantastic example of content as advertising, so I’m posting them here — though I’ll admit I’m not quite as sure how well they work for people who don’t watch the show:

I still think the advertising world would be better — and less hated — if there was a focus on making sure your advertising was actually good content that was entertaining or interesting. It may not be as exciting as trying to tweak the AI to squeeze an extra 0.000003 cents per user with more targeted ads, but it might make for a nicer world.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Advertising Is Content: Taskmaster Edition”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Call me Al says:

Re: Might work.

Reminds me of some US recipe websites. I’m always amused when the recipe lists a very specific, branded variety of a product. I sit there wondering if I can make this chilli con carne recipe with the kidney beans available in the UK rather than Walter Smith’s Famous Kidney Beans or whatever else was on the list.

Anonymous Coward says:


Was originally on Dave, they have a paid subscription service. Now Taskmaster is on Channel 4 which runs the UKs largest free (ie. ad based) subscription service.
The new series on Channel 4 they want to monetise on their own site. They don’t put it on youtube where Google take a large cut of the ad revenue.

Lostinlodos (profile) says:


Hong Kong broadcast television: 1996-2014.
It worked in the beginning, though by the mid 20-teens it was almost Wayne’s World level funny on the pauses. The shows were so advert based the products became essential!
Look at the police academy series of series. The lates variant spin off quasi reboot flopped. The first try since 2017. With the advertising out the show has lost part of it’s over the top charm. In a cold dark (and occasionally darkly humours) collection spun off from two mild comedies, they worked product placement to the point of self funding.
There are hundreds of examples.
And it shows where you can go with some thought.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...