John Oliver Can’t Resist Hating on the New HBO Ads He’s Forced to Do

Are we really here for the static?


HBO’s newest campaign, “It’s What Connects Us,” created with agency Mekanism, promotes its programming with the recognizable moment of on-screen static followed by a satisfied exhale that precedes all of its shows.

If you find that a little bit ridiculous, you’re not alone. One very meta spot in the campaign features John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight, questioning the approach with his trademark sardonic wit. “What is the point of this whole concept?” he asks, while admitting that getting actors from the network’s most popular programming to contribute is “impressive, if it isn’t some form of corporate bullying.”

In addition to Oliver, the campaign features appearances by Silicon Valley’s Martin Starr, Thomas Middleditch, T.J. Miller and Kumail Nanjiani, Westworld’s Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton, Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tony Hale, and Insecure’s Issa Rae, to name a few. The cast of Game of Thrones makes an appearance as well—although Hodor seems to struggle with the concept, and Daenerys Targaryen lets her dragons do the talking.

Even Elmo and Big Bird get in on the action.

We tend to agree with Oliver that “nobody turns in to HBO for the static,” and it is a bit of a strange creative positioning. The campaign is not without its charm, however, thanks in no small part to the Last Week Tonight host himself.

Agency: Mekanism
Client: HBO
President & CEO: Jason Harris
Creative Director: David Horowitz
Senior Copywriter: Alex Riezebeek
Copywriter: Bryan Davis
Head of Production: Kati Haberstock
Senior Producer: Felix Messina
Director of Brand Management: Melissa Hill
Brand Director: Cassie Jackson
Brand Manager: Emily Jaslove

Live Action Production Company: HBO
Chris Spadaccini: Head of Marketing
Jason Mulderig: Vice President, Brand & Product Marketing
Dana Lichtenstein: Director, Brand & Product Marketing
Kate Cohen: Associate Manager, Brand & Product Marketing

Editorial, Visual Effects and Colour : The Mill, New York
Editor: Joe Simons
Editor: Ryan McKenna
Assistant Editor: Rachel Greco
Assistant Editor: Matt Campbell
Colourist: Mikey Rossiter
Designer: Chet Hirsch
Compositing Lead: Siro Valente
Compositor: Brandon Danowski
Compositor: Krissy Nordello
Compositor: Sung Eun Moon
Compositor: James Cudahy
Senior Producer: Dan Love

Audio: Heard City
Sound Designer & Mixer: Keith Reynaud
Executive Producer: Sasha Awn
Producer: Andi Lewis

Francis (Sarah Jessica Parker)
Robert (Thomas Haden Church)

Game of Thrones
Arya (Maisie Williams)
Sansa (Sophie Turner)
Bran (Isaac Hempstead Wright)
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke)
Varys (Conleth Hill)
The Hound (Rory McCann)
Theon (Alfie Allen)
Tyrion (Peter Dinklage)
Brienne (Gwendoline Christie)
Cersei (Lena Headey)
Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel)
Jon Snow (Kit Harington)
Hodor (Kristian Nairn)

Hannah (Lena Dunham)
Marnie (Allison Williams)
Shoshanna (Zosia Mamet)
Jessa (Jemima Kirke)

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
John Oliver

Sesame Street
Big Bird

Silicon Valley
Erlich (TJ Miller)
Richard (Thomas Middleditch)
Dinesh (Kumail Nanjiani)
Gilfoyle (Martin Starr)
Monica (Amanda crew)
Jared (Zach Woods)
Gavin (Matt Ross)
Big Head (Josh Brener)
Laurie (Suzanne Cryer)
Jian (Jimmy O. Yang)

Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel
Bryant Gumbel

Kevin (Justin Theroux)
Guilty Remnant Extras
High Maintenance
Guy (Ben Sinclair)

Fight Game With Jim Lampley
Jim Lampley

Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood)
Maeve (Thandie Newton)
Ptolomy Slocum (Tech)
Leonardo Nam (Tech)

Selina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)
Gary (Tony Hale)
Amy (Anna Chlumsky)
Dan (Reid Scott)
Jonah (Timothy Simons)
Catherine (Sarah Sutherland)
Mike (Matt Walsh)
Kent (Gary Cole)
Sam Richardson (Richard Splett)
Clea DuVall (Marjorie)
Ben (Kevin Dunn)

Issa Dee (Issa Rae)

Spencer (Dwayne Johnson)
Charles (Omar Benson Little)
Joe (Rob Corddry)

Real Time With Bill Maher
Bill Maher

Canelo Alvarez

@ErikDOster Erik Oster is an agencies reporter for Adweek.