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Latest Self-Mocking Product Placement: VW on IFC's 'Comedy Bang! Bang!'

Show Joins '30 Rock' in Self-Deprecating Ad Genre

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Advertising Age Player

IFC's new series "Comedy Bang! Bang!" is taking a cue from NBC's "30 Rock" by poking fun at its upcoming Volkswagen integration.

This week's episode will show hosts Scott Aukerman and Reggie Watts driving VW's new Beetle Turbo while discussing the (fictional) conspicuous integration of a fake product called Sullivan's Powder. Subtle cutaways to the VW logo give way to in-your-face integration that culminates in a collision with a giant VW logo blocking the road.

"We are always looking for innovative ways to connect with our audience and this overt and transparent product integration fits with IFC's audience," said Justin Osborne, general manager for marketing communications at Volkswagen America. "Everyone is in on the joke."

IFC approached the automobile maker about the skit, said Vanessa Benfield, senior VP-sponsorship sales at the network. "Our audience will find this amusing and give the brand a lot of credit for having fun and respect them for that ," Ms. Benfield said.

"Comedy Bang! Bang!" writers were in charge of the script. VW was brought in to oversee the shooting of the episode. Mr. Osborne admitted there are some risks with making integration itself part of the focus. "We wouldn't do this in a blockbuster movie or mainstream TV show," he said. "But on a show like this, there wasn't a lot of downside."

And satirical advertising wouldn't work well for just any marketer, said Frances Croke Page, VP-director of entertainment media at RJ Palmer. "I wouldn't recommend this strategy for a new brand," she said. "The brand needs to be established with a sophisticated reputation and ready for a comedic moment. They also need to ask themselves what's the corporate culture of the company and can the CMO and other executives handle the conversations that inevitably follow such spoofs?"

As product placement has become endemic, however, integrations that sort of mock integration are becoming more common. "Comedy Bang! Bang!" is taking a line from NBC's "30 Rock," which has previously made fun of its own product placement deals with brands like Verizon Wireless, Snapple and, during its recent live episode, with Kraft.

Comedy Central's "Colbert Report" also created a stir in February when host Stephen Colbert spent nearly seven minutes talking about a Wheat Thins sponsorship and making fun of a brand memo describing how he could and could not portray the cracker.

As with any marketing technique, satirizing a show's own product placements could become too familiar, according to Ms. Page. But if it's done correctly, with quality writing and execution, it won't necessarily get old, she said.

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