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Remember in the most recent 30 Rock, when Jack found out he had accidentally taken the cell phone of the woman he’d spent the night with? He and Liz get into a conversation about how common the Verizon Wireless phones are, thanks to their great service, and at the end of the scene Liz turns to the camera and says “Can we have our money now?”
Turns out, Verizon Wireless said “Yes! Yes you can!” The scene was actually part of a product placement deal set up by NBC, as explained by this article in The Hollywood Reporter. You may remember a similar trick last season, when Jack tried to get the writers to write product placement into “TGS.” They refused, all the while gabbing about how much they loved Snapple, and even encountering a man dressed in a Snapple suit.
Nielsen has counted 174 product placements in 30 Rock this year, taking up almost 13 minutes of air time. Other than the Verizon moment, I can’t remember a single one; that’s the way most shows do it, showing you the product without shoving it in your face. I personally enjoy the way 30 Rock plays with it from time to time, though most shows couldn’t pull it off. Setting the show at the real NBC network obviously comes with its own complications—every time they make a joke about parent company GE, they’re talking about real parent company GE. But then they throw in that GE is owned by the fictional Sheinhardt Wig Company, and the potential obnoxiousness of the product placement is avoided by taking things to a silly new level.
30 Rock is one of the most self-aware TV shows on the air right now, and it can get away with poking fun at itself, and even biting the hand that feeds it, when Verizon demands some prominent placement. You’ve got to wonder, though, how far they have to bend over backwards to make these product placements endearing instead of annoying. Like, did they include that Verizon bit at the expense of some wonderful Grizz and Dot Com banter? Maybe I’m overly obsessed with 30 Rock-- OK, I am most definitely overly obsessed with 30 Rock-- but regardless, I’m suspicious of product placement, even if it’s funny. I realize it’s a necessary evil, especially now that we all TiVo our way through real commercials, but sometimes you start to get the feeling you’re being advertised to every second of your entire day.