• 11.06.09

’30 Rock’ Ends Product Placement Speculation, Writes Cisco Into Last Night’s Episode

Cisco got one hell of a pitch man in Jack Donaghy.

jack donaghy

Last night’s 30 Rock wasn’t just notable for the its usual cavalcade of shenanigans, or even the NBC in-house fun-poking (Brian Williams as a stand-up comic? Jack saying something was “as useless as the Winter Olympics” then turning to the camera and adding, “only on NBC”). It was the first and most blatant integration of a full-on commercial into the plot. Sure, Tina Fey
has sported a Slanket (“as a joke”), made a joke about obviously shilling for Verizon, and an entire episode where Jack finds his father has mirroed the plot of Mamma Mia (a commercial for the DVD release followed the episode).


But this was next-level. 

Right after a commercial block that included Ellen Page in a new ad for Cisco’s video conferencing gadget, Alec Baldwin’s character did a minute-long bit on the same product, slogan and all. Cisco is clearly hoping this will go viral (congrats!) and has no doubt paid mightily for the opportunity. But the clearly sponsored content isn’t likely to generate the level of chatter that surfaced when another show plot included references to McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches. Tina Fey, via Twitter, insisted it wasn’t product placement. And Fey’s Liz Lemon has occasionally turned to the camera and assured the audience other pop cultural references weren’t paid for. So one of three things is going on: 1. Fey’s been fibbing, helping the show rake in secret sponsors. 2. She was truly oblivious to the sponsorship potential. 3. The accusations about product placement set her and NBC salespeople in motion.

Fey (at last feeling skeeved out by the whole thing?) was nowhere to be seen last night as Jack, his assistant, and a room full of random actors played spokespeople. What a disgusting example of capitalist greed gone … aw, who are we kidding? Baldwin could make a time-share pitch sound hilarious! Get it while it lasts below (or go here for behind the scenes footage):

About the author

Tyler Gray is the former Editorial Director of Fast Company and co-author of the book The Sonic Boom: How Sound Transforms the Way We Think, Feel and Buy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), out in fall 2014. He previously authored The Hit Charade for HarperCollins and has written for The New York Times, SPIN, Blender, Esquire, and others.