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October 4, 2015

Thursday was product placement night on NBC

by Joel Keller, posted Nov 21st 2006 11:14AM
Staples MailMate ShredderSo the first night of NBC's new "Must-See TV" lineup (except Scrubs) turned out to be eventful for more than one reason: not only did we see a pivotal episode of The Office, the cast of My Name Is Earl in Claymation, and the first Thursday 30 Rock, we saw more self-referrential product placements in one night than at any time I could remember.

The first one was when we saw The Office's Kevin going nuts over the Staples MailMate shredder. "This shreds eveything," he says with a sense of childlike wonder. "It shreds CDs. It shreds credit cards..." The look on his face after he realized he shredded his own credit card is priceless, as was the salad he made with the shredder right before the credits. Oh, and by the way, Staples had an ad for the MailMate during the "supersized" episode.

Then, on 30 Rock, not only did we see Alec Baldwin brilliantly play Jack Donaghy doing take after take of an employee video on "GE Product Integration," but Tina Fey and company made fun of the concept by making overt references to how great Snapple is. It was so obvious that there was a scene where Liz and Pete run into a guy in a Snapple bottle costume looking for Human Resources. Of course, there was a Snapple commercial during the show.

A few observations about "product-placement-palooza":

  • Snapple? Did Tina and her staff write the Snapple references in before Snapple bought the ad or vice versa? Because if it's the former, Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld got to that joke first... fourteen years ago (see the episode "The Virgin," among others from Season Four).
  • The MailMate is pretty cool. In fact, it was so cool that I was thinking of buying one for myself when I was reorganizing my home office a few weeks ago. But I found a shredder that did the exact same thing -- including shredding CDs, credit cards and floppy disks -- for $42 less (it was on sale). Guess where I found it?
  • Not sure if the self-aware product placement joke works as well if you actually see an ad for the product during the show. I don't know... kind of erases any doubt about whether the placement was done for comedy purposes, even if that was the original intention. It just makes it look like NBC asked the writers to somehow include the products in the show. I mean, as far as I remember, I never saw a Burger King ad during that Arrested Development episode that played up a BK product placement...
  • Boy, Alec Baldwin has gotten fat.
Last night's Studio 60 also talked a lot about product placement, mentioning products like Nokia phones and iPods. So maybe there is a real-life Jack Donaghy somewhere making a real "product integration" video for real NBC employees.

So, what did you think? Was it too much? Did the commercials after the product placement kill the comedy? Let me know in the comments.

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Tom the Hawk

the episode was about how the cast didn't want to go along with the product placement, and they justwent nuts with it! Giant Snapple bottle person in the elevator, etc. Very fast paced and witty, you HAVE to have the closed caption on to get it all it goes so quick. The three shows all melded into one bizarre skit taking on the corporate establishment in television. I think some of ya didn't get it

December 02 2006 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Philip Harlon

Did anyone else watch this episode with the closed captioning on? Tracy actually said he had to go to an orgy at Elizabeth Hasslebeck's house!

Damn, NBC first kinda used her her name on Law and Order SVU and now this...

pretty funny though!

November 21 2006 at 6:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chris Wyant

"there is a reason I have a TiVo and a reason I fast forward through the commercials" That's exactly why they're resorting to product placement in the first place.

November 21 2006 at 6:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The best product placement of this sort was last year when Michael got excited because he thought he saw Tina Fey walking around in front of 30 Rock when he was in New York. Clearly an early add for her new show. How's that for Meta?

November 21 2006 at 3:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I found it fascinating that in The Office, Staples is putting Dunder Mifflin out of business, but in real life, Staples is sponsoring the show. If you think about it, the whole premise of The Office is an ad for office supply warehouse companies like Staples. They show the "middle man" business as dysfunctional, incompetent and struggling to stay in business.

November 21 2006 at 2:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Was anyone else reminded of the Waynes World movie when they saw the Snapple bit from 30 Rock? Making fun of product placement seemed funny back then, but for me I felt it was old. Since everything is on YouTube here is the link to that bit:

November 21 2006 at 1:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's November, so it's sweeps month. This just seems to be NBC's way of courting the advertisers in saying "Hey look what we can get all our big shows to do. Give us more money and we'll make it happen."

November 21 2006 at 12:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jesse's right- there is a line that shouldn't be crossed. Even Studio 60 was walking on very thin ice last night. It looks like all of the writers on NBC's shows are learning to deal with placement in different ways. This can't be a coincidence. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if the network outlined cool "meta" ways of incorporating placement with a knowing wink while still doing the placement. What does it mean to "supersize" a show (as NBC did with the Office on thursday) when the extra minutes are literally commercials for Staples and Nissan?
If you must do placement, why not keep it on a level of, say, the iPod christmas gift gag they did last season? It blended perfectly with the reality of the show and I wouldn't have given it a second thought if my brain weren't programmed to look for placement. Next up- NBC/Universal demands placement in Battlestar Galactica. GE Cylons, anyone?

November 21 2006 at 11:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This was easily the funniest episode of "30 Rock" ever.
Alec Baldwin and Tracy Morgan killed.

My favorite Tracy line:
"Of course I can read. I even have a column in "Ebony" called "Mussssinggzzz..."

I was laughing so hard at this line I didnt hear the rest of the entire scene.

November 21 2006 at 11:48 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jim, it's not breaking news, just something I wanted to talk about, hence the "watercooler talk" category.

November 21 2006 at 11:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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