Earlier this year, NBC announced that season 42 of Saturday Night Live would feature fewer commercial breaks, in exchange for more branded content.
While the absence of breaks may not have seemed overtly noticeable over the past three Saturdays, the addition of sponsored sketches certainly should have caught your attention this past weekend. SNL utilized a variety of techniques to introduce brands and products both within and outside of the live sketches. Let’s see how many you noticed!
First, the “Escorts” threw in a brief product placement, as Leslie Jones indicated she’d have to wear Lindsey Vonn Oakley sunglasses during her sexual encounter with her client (played by Mikey Day). It’s just one mention, and we see her wearing sunglasses. One of those product placements that could merely be the joke of the sight gag and the random celebrity namedrop, but it also works as a quick advertisement for the product.
Later we see a full-on sponsored sketch for Honda, as the car manufacturer takes center stage as the premise and setting, with its brand logo displayed throughout the four-minute sketch, fronted by Bobby Moynihan as the corporate spokesperson/emcee and starring guest host Emily Blunt and cast member Day as two malfunctioning Honda robot servants. Jones enters late in a futile attempt to repair Day’s robot, but the real humor from the sketch arises from Blunt, who gets right into Kate McKinnon’s face, repeating her line over and over to force a mini quesadilla on McKinnon. Worked so well plenty of websites wrote up posts about the Honda sketch without even mentioning the corporate synergy of it all.
In the back half of the show, we also find ourselves at a drive-thru window. But not any drive-thru. It’s specifically a Burger King, as shown right from the outset, with Pete Davidson taking the orders — or trying to — of each of the outlandish customers in the stretch limo that pulls up and rolls past the window. Davidson frequently mentions specific items from the BK menu, including Cheetos Chicken Fries. The cast of characters he has to put up with reminds me of old and new ideas from SNL’s old recurring “Deep House Dish” sketches, and as the ravers get more and more ridiculous, Davidson’s BK employee becomes alternately patient and incredulous at it all. But you got yourself a Whopper of a sketch because of it, Burger King.
Finally, we saw the kinds of targeted advertising that has become commonplace during SNL broadcasts over the past several years. Both NBC and corporations have learned the wisdom of booking ad time on Saturday nights when they feel their brands or products will find a more willing audience of potential buyers — whether that’s adding movie trailers and TV series promos that star that week’s SNL guest host or cast members, commercials for other comedy products, just plain funny ads, or this week, a half-minute or so for friends of the SNL family.
Rather late in the show, if you didn’t change the channel or get up to go to the bathroom, the sight of SNL alum Fred Armisen may have convinced you to keep paying attention, as he sat in a car show with longtime SNL friend Paul Simon. Armisen asked Simon why he would sit for this “video” with him, and that’s when we see the reveal that it’s really just an ad for Simon’s newest album, “Stranger to Stranger.”
Here’s the full three-and-a-half-minute video Simon uploaded this summer:
So what do you think? Can you get used to this amount and this type of sponsored content each week on Saturday Night Live?
Here’s a fake ad from Episode #5 of Season 42 that uses SNL’s traditional fake ad after the monologue slot, but uses a very real iconic ad (the Apple ad introducing the Macintosh computer using “1984” imagery during the Super Bowl) to spoof toilets, but using a real manufacturer of toilets, Kohler, and tagging the spoof with a tease that it’s coming to market in 2017.