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Verizon Delays Special Commercial Tied to ‘Saturday Night Live’

Variety logo Variety 5/19/2017 Brian Steinberg

Verizon has decided to wait to make a much-anticipated connection with “Saturday Night Live.”

Fans of the venerable NBC late-night mainstay can no doubt guess what they might encounter this weekend when the show caps off a resurgent 42nd season: Will Alec Baldwin return to give viewers a final impression of President Trump before “SNL”  goes on summer hiatus? Could all the various guests  who have played members of the Trump administration – Jimmy Fallon as Jared Kushner; Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer; John Goodman as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – return for a massive Cabinet meeting?

What viewers will not see, however, is a Verizon commercial that had been scripted by “SNL” writer and “Weekend Update” anchor Colin Jost and set to star cast member Kenan Thompson  – all part of a burgeoning effort by NBC to help tie advertisers more directly to the program.  The ad’s appearance has been postponed, according to two people familiar with the situation.  The spot could show up next season, but might need to be tweaked or revamped to accommodate product cycles, these people said. There is no set date at present for an appearance.

A Verizon spokeswoman declined to comment. A “Saturday Night Live” representative referred a query to NBC, which declined to make executives available to comment.

The Verizon commercial’s delayed debut hints at the complexities involved in trying to achieve what is fast becoming Madison Avenue’s Holy Grail: bespoke ties with TV programs. For weeks, Verizon has run an ad in “Saturday Night Live” featuring actor Thomas Middleditch as a spokesman. But that commercial runs in many other places, too. Developing one that plays off “SNL” in direct fashion requires more planning.

“SNL” has already done some work for another advertiser this season. Viewers who tuned in to last week’s episode might have noticed one sketch which featured the use of an Apple laptop – logo on full display for the camera.  The show made sure viewers were aware of the placement. A video “bumper” that appeared in the live broadcast in advance of the sketch told the audience: “Promotional Consideration for SNL Furnished By Apple.”

“SNL” is doing a limited amount of work for advertisers under a plan unveiled by NBC last year. As part of a bid to keep viewers watching the show’s linear broadcast, NBC has run it this season with fewer commercials and offered a select number of sponsors the chance to run ads crafted with “SNL” writers and cast.

The show has approached the opportunity gingerly. Lorne Michaels, the “SNL” executive producer who is also the show’s longtime guiding light, told Variety in April that he is eager to keep people watching the program and line up ad support in an era when digital technology is disrupting the TV business. At the same time, he wants to make sure viewers understand when they are watching a commercial and when they are watching his show, which has for years featured “fake” commercials that often poke fun at their real 3o-second counterparts. “The integrity of the show is really all that matters to me,” Michaels said.

NBC expects to continue to offer some advertisers the chance to work with the program in months to come, executives have said.

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