News: MacGruber and New Pepsi Logo

As Pepsi lays it on heavy in promoting their new logo, one avenue they chose for marketing was via product placement ads during NBC’s Saturday Night Live on January 31.

MacGruber & Pepsi
Product placement on Saturday Night Live

The sketch comedy show has previously featured a recurring series called MacGruber, which is a spoof on the 1980′s adventure show MacGyver.

Original MacGyver title shot
MacGruber & Pepsi
Spoof MacGruber title shot

Typically, these homages show the character trying to diffuse a bomb while trapped in a tight situation. Unlike the original TV show, however, MacGruber tends to screw things up and get killed… only to return in another “episode” later in the SNL broadcast.

MacGruber & Pepsi

Utilizing some creative (and later over-the-top) product placement, along with bringing in the original actor who played MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson), Pepsi ran with the established history of the MacGruber charcter to showcase their new logo, slogan, and can design. I wonder how much they paid off NBC for the honor?!

Here are the 3 ads, which progressively transition from simple product placement to complete sellouts to an advertiser:

MacGruber: Pepsi #1

MacGruber: Pepsi #2

MacGruber: Pepsi #3

UPDATE (2/3/09): It appears that Pepsi paid big bucks to land their name in the MacGruber spots. This from the Associated Press:

Is `SNL’ leasing its sketches to advertisers?
By JAKE COYLE – 2/2/09

NEW YORK (AP) — Was “MacGruber” a “Saturday Night Live” sketch or Pepsi commercial?

Depending on when you were watching television over the weekend, it was hard to tell.

On Saturday night’s “SNL,” the recurring bit starring cast member Will Forte aired three times during the show, each time with comical over-the-top promotion for Pepsi.

Then on Sunday night, one of the same “MacGruber” sketches — in which Forte plays a parody of the `80s action series “MacGyver” — aired during NBC’s broadcast of the Super Bowl as a commercial.

As it turns out, all were paid commercials by Pepsi, made in collaboration with producer Lorne Michaels’ “Saturday Night Live.” The segments weren’t product placement, but commercials paid for by Pepsi and produced by “SNL.” Though they appeared to be sketches on “SNL,” they ran during allotted commercial breaks.

NBC Entertainment Co-Chairman Ben Silverman said Pepsi paid full freight for the spots — which sold for about $3 million per 30-second spot during the Super Bowl.

“They really made it very funny and obvious, so I don’t think there was any confusion,” said Silverman. “Everything is ongoing experimentation, but the reality is we need to evolve and do more and more things.”

Added Silverman: “It’s not just an ad for Pepsi, it’s an ad for `Saturday Night Live.’”

Branding expert Peter Arnell was in charge of PepsiCo’s Super Bowl campaign, which also included a 3-D commercial for its SoBe Life Water.

“The creative space is `SNL’s’ and they were commercials we would have bought, so the economics were as normal as it ever was,” said Arnell. “It’s the un-advertising advertising.”

The first “MacGruber” sketch/commercial that ran during “SNL” came amid other commercials — after a movie trailer for “The Pink Panther 2,” which is what host Steve Martin was (what else?) promoting.

PepsiCo American Beverages chief Massimo d’Amore, who watched the game from a luxury box with NBC and Michaels, declined to say how much the company paid the network for the spots. An estimated 95.4 million people watched the Pittsburgh-Arizona Super Bowl, making it second only to last year’s game as the most popular ever, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“We have been working together all along in a true partnership,” said d’Amore. “This is definitely not a one-off. It’s a very determined step to connect with the consumers of today in a new contemporary way.”

The ads include all the same usual characteristics that the sketch series normally does: its cheesy opening theme song, a frightened sidekick (played by fellow cast member Kristen Wiig) and MacGruber’s inevitable distraction (in this case, a Pepsi). The real MacGyver — Richard Dean Anderson — also made a cameo.

That a marquee “SNL” sketch would be sold to a marketer might rub some loyal viewers the wrong way. Fans, after all, tune in for comedy, not for well-dressed commercials.

Silverman says the viewer only wins, since the Pepsi sketches replaced regular commercials. (He also noted that “SNL” talent was paid for the work outside of their normal salaries.)

“It wasn’t inside the show,” said Silverman. “Lorne really protected the show. I think the fans of `Saturday Night Live’ got to see a `MacGruber’ that they wouldn’t have otherwise seen.”

Michaels wasn’t available to comment Monday.

“What we’re doing is selling entertainment vehicles and marketing platforms,” said Silverman, who has looked for other revenue streams for NBC as network TV ratings have slid. “This is where programming is going.”