Saturday Night Live officially embracing branded content in sketches for season 42

Saturday Night Live has mocked advertising and our relationship with it over 41 seasons.

From the first season’s Bass-O-Matic, down through the years from Mom Jeans to Bad Idea Jeans, Schmitts Gay beer and Colon Blow cereal. But now, for every fake ad SNL may air after the guest host’s monologue or later in the episode, the venerable sketch comedy series may write a satirical version of an actual ad campaign for an actual company such as Starbucks or Totino’s.

Their sketches have become incorporated into actual products, such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavors; their characters, spokespeople for actual companies — notably State Farm (with Hans and Franz, the Chicago Superfans and Richmeister).

And NBC actively sells ad space to film studios and companies looking to target SNL viewers, often airing an ad for something related to a sketch immediately after that sketch airs.

So when NBC announced today that SNL will cut back on commercial time by 30 percent — or two ad breaks — when Season 42 starts in Fall 2016, the broadcast network will give that time right back to advertisers in the form of branded content.

In the announcement, SNL creator Lorne Michaels said: “This will give time back to the show and make it easier to watch the show live.”

But Linda Yaccarino, NBCUniversal’s chairman of advertising sales and client partnerships, noted that SNL will offer partnerships with brands to create six sketches of branded content.

“Since 1975, SNL has shaped and driven conversation. We are excited to try something new and unique that will shape and drive advertiser content too,” Yaccarino said. “By partnering together, advertisers can capture an audience that only SNL can deliver.”

After all, two of SNL’s current cast — Cecily Strong and Michael Che — already appeared in a hybrid ad for Jeep two years ago.

And here are some SNL sketches from this season and last based on actual companies and ad campaigns:

Vanessa Bayer for Totino’s Pizza Rolls on Super Bowl Weekend

The adult cast plays with Star Wars toys (or leaves them in the box) from The Force Awakens

Showing how Pep Boys tries to add cultural conversations, just like Starbucks tried

Speaking of which, SNL’s Starbucks Verismo ad

And SNL for Nespresso, duplicating the actual ad with George Clooney and Danny DeVito


Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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