NBC entertainment co-chair Ben Silverman is pursuing other partnerships like the one that turned a recurring Saturday Night Live character into a Super Bowl pitchman for Pepsi.
Of detractors who claim the Peacock blurred the line between programming and advertising with such a deal, Silverman contends, "Those are the same people who will be out of business" if they do not adapt during this difficult economy. He also tells TVGuide.com that NBC is in talks with other potential partners about "finding [similar] ways to use our entertainment vehicles to help their brands."
The spots, which premiered on the eve of the Super Bowl (during SNL commercial breaks), show Will Forte's MacGruber — who as of late has hit hard financial times — pimping Pepsi. The ersatz MacGyver laughs off the idea when Richard Dean Anderson (the real MacGyver) calls him on his blatant shilling.
"It wasn't a commercial for Pepsi; it was a commercial for Saturday Night Live," Silverman says, pointing out that fans of the show came away from the product placement deal with "extra" SNL content.
Silverman says the entire partnership, initiated by Pepsi, "could not have been more thought-through." He says the beverage giant reached out to NBC and specifically the creative minds at SNL to "not only create some memorable Super Bowl spots, but also to work with them on ways in which we could align our interests." SNL chief Lorne Michaels, head writer Seth Meyers and the sketch show's writing staff came back with the MacGruber/"Pepsuber" concept, "and the team at Pepsi embraced it," says Silverman.
Silverman hails the end product as "a testament to Saturday Night Live, and a really funny" one at that. Pepsi, meanwhile, bought itself buzz it may not have obtained through a traditional image campaign (or with its Then-vs.-Now Bob Dylan/Will.I.Am spot, which also aired during Super Bowl XLIII).
"The reason advertisers like television so much is that we help those brands become part of the culture," notes Silverman. "And nothing is more culturally relevant than Saturday Night Live."