The definition of shtick is a gimmick, comic routine, or style of performance associated with a particular person.
For Ryan Reynolds, that shtick is a hilarious—often profane—ability to mock pop culture while simultaneously creating it. Self-awareness as comedic shtick.
And it works! Look no further than Deadpool‘s box office for proof. Or the fact that you’ve even heard of Aviation Gin.
Since buying an ownership stake in the Davos Brands’ liquor brand, Reynolds has become the face of Aviation, with the ownership angle allowing him to be more than just a pitchman. It’s become a part of who he is, at least in the celebrity-industrial-complex sense. He drinks it on late-night TV appearances and has made his self-aware comedic stylings the foundation of its advertising.
But this week, Reynolds takes things to another level by somehow putting three different brands in one ad—a Netflix ad for Reynolds’s new movie, 6 Underground, inside an Aviation Gin ad, inside a Samsung QLED TV ad.
But the meta doesn’t end there, oh no.
It’s also an ad that appears to go behind the scenes of an ad, as the director comes out to question Reynolds on just how meta all of this can get. “You bought an ad for your gin, within an ad for your movie, within an ad for Samsung TV?” she asks, just in case any of us weren’t quite grasping the concept. The spot even assumes everyone watching knows what a midroll is.
Reynolds may be the only person who could pull off something this audaciously commercial.
But even his beloved shtick has limits—and this might be it.
Back in 2008 (!), Emily Nussbaum wrote about the limits of audience patience with brand integration on TV, even the best kind, which was being served up at the time by 30 Rock. How many times could we laugh at a blatant commercial reference to Snapple or SoyJoy before feeling like the joke was on us? Joss Whedon told her that this kind of wink-wink agreement between a show and its audience can wear thin. “You can’t do it again and be cute, because then it’s a different type of shilling,” Whedon said. “Eventually you realize the reason they’re making a joke is because there’s something abhorrent going on.”
Critic Leslie Savan wrote in her 1994 (!) book, The Sponsored Life, about marketers’ keen use of irony in order to break through our inherent cynicism about anything with a whiff of a sales pitch. It’s meant to lead the audience to believe that “by rolling their collective eyes when they watch TV, they can control it, rather than letting it control them. But unfortunately, as a defense against the power of advertising, irony is a leaky condom.”
Reynolds is the current undisputed king of the wink. He mocked the entire idea of a movie trailer in order to make a pretty damn great movie trailer for Deadpool 2. In a Deadpool product tie-in with Devour frozen foods, he called himself a sellout.
When it comes to Aviation, Reynolds has taken the piss out of a whole collection of advertising cliches. The earnest entrepreneur. The emptiness of a catchy slogan. And of course, the celebrity sales pitch.
With this new spot, Reynolds appears hell-bent on testing the limits of just how meta a meta-ad can be, as well as our stomach for it altogether. For what it’s worth, it works pretty well! It’s charming and funny, and what’s wrong with pouring yourself a tasty cocktail and settling in for a new streaming action flick on a Jurassically big new TV, anyway? Totally normal, right? Oh FFS, he got me.
This might not even be the high-water mark of ad-within-ad integration. In fact, I think they could’ve fit one more ad in here. Not for another brand—no, that would be gauche—but perhaps a cancer-awareness PSA? Yeah, that could work. But that would be the limit. Totally. For sure. Right?