After years of producing fake commercials for products both real and imagined (R.I.P. Bathroom Monkey), it sounds like Saturday Night Live is about to get into the ad game in earnest. Variety reports that tonight’s episode of the long-running sketch show will feature a new twist on the show’s normal marketing strategy: a totally real, non-spoof commercial for Verizon, written by Colin Jost and featuring cast member Kenan Thompson.
Late-night TV has seen an increase in paid product placement over the last few years, with hosts like Seth Meyers, James Corden, and Jimmy Fallon integrating the art of straight-facedly hocking crap into their standard TV duties. Still, it’s something of a leap to see a show that’s devoted so much time and energy to mocking ad techniques over the decades throw its newly refreshed weight behind the concept. (Even if the show’s resurgent ratings mean that 30 seconds of its ad time are now going for more than $100,000 a pop.)
“Everyone is struggling now in a world where there is so much media,” creator Lorne Michaels told Variety. “We are all competing for sponsors, and everything is being reinvented. SNL has been reinventing itself from season two.” Michaels also cited the show’s historical live comedy precedents, like Jack Benny and Bob Hope, both masters of the on-air pitch.
The Verizon spot will run during tonight’s Louis CK-hosted episode, plus Jimmy Fallon’s next week. Meanwhile, Apple has struck a similar deal for SNL-based ad content, although it won’t show up for a few more weeks, and will supposedly look pretty different from Verizon’s ad.