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A Charmin Ad Next to an SNL Sketch? NBC Says Placement Was "Coincidental"

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Oct 7, 2022, 10:59:12 AM10/7/22
As is the case with most things related to toilet paper, this might get a
little messy.

An ad for Procter & Gamble's Charmin toilet tissue ran adjacent last week on
Peacock to a "Saturday Night Live" sketch making fun of the product's long-
running ad campaign that features blue bears talking about the benefits of
keeping their posteriors clean, and in doing so, sparked a new round of
online chatter about how involved advertisers can get in "SNL" content

They typically can't. NBC says the appearance of the ad next to the skit was
"coincidental," and not put in place at the request of Procter & Gamble,
which has manufactured Charmin since acquiring the product in 1957. Procter,
one of the nation's largest TV advertisers, did not respond to a query
seeking comment.

Its commercials have not been the most common sight during "SNL," which has
long counted Apple, consumer-technology marketers and movie studios as some
of its biggest sponsors. In 2021, Procter spent just $5.8 million on
advertising (not a grand sum in the world of TV commercials) during the show,
according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. The average cost of a 30-
second TV ad on "SNL" last season was $164,000, according to Standard Media

To be sure, the Charmin ad did not appear next to the "SNL" sketch on NBC
itself, only during the live stream of the show on Peacock. NBC viewers saw
an ad for the David O. Russell movie "Amsterdam.' Commercials on streaming
hubs are often dispatched differently to various households, with factors
such as geographic location and purchasing habits utilized as part of a
distribution that hinges on algorithms.

As such, the appearance of the ad points to a new challenge TV networks are
likely to face as more of its programs are consumed via broadband streaming.
Advertisers who desire a strong link to a specific program -- something that
often takes the form of a product placement in the show or bespoke
commercials around it -- usually pay a premium to do so. In the world of
streaming, however, ads can be sent based on the particular characteristics
of the audience, rather than the desires of the network or producer.

In the past, producers at "Saturday Night Live" have expressed caution about
how viewers perceive ad support for the show. That has ramped up in recent
years as "SNL" cast members have gained new permission to take part in ad
campaigns -- a freedom their counterparts from past seasons have not always
been granted. Advertisers using current cast members have been told their
commercials cannot run during original broadcasts of the show itself, out of
concern that viewers might think the ads and the program are intertwined.

Sometimes, mistakes are made. Last season, for example, NBC ran an Old Navy
ad featuring former cast member Aidy Bryant twice during a new "SNL" episode,
spurring what one person familiar with the matter said at the time was a
review as to why it happened. In 2015, American Express was allowed to move
one of its commercials next to a "SNL" sketch spoofing it, the direct result
of NBC giving a heads-up to Mindshare, the company's media buyer at the time.

Lorne Michaels, "SNL's" executive producer and longtime guiding light, takes
such matters seriously. "I don't like it, but if someone is going to be well
paid and it's not next to us in the show, then I'm OK," he told Variety in
2017 of the cast appearing in commercials. When it comes to weaving bespoke
ad messages into or alongside "SNL," he is "less welcoming in the sense that
the integrity of the show is really all that matters to me," he said at the
time, adding that "You can't make fun of it, and be with it" simultaneously.

As more viewers move to live-stream "SNL" rather than watch it on traditional
TV, NBC will have to decide whether to maintain its own oversight over such
things, or let artificial intelligence hold sway.

Let's go Brandon!

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