Is “30 Rock” courting a sponsor or just having fun?


Thursday night’s 30 Rock caused something of a ripple in the blogosphere. Not because of Liz Lemon’s latest awkward moments, although she certainly had more than her share.

Not because Kenneth wasn’t handsome enough for a hot woman — who was blind.

Not even because of a repeat appearance by Salma Hayek and her, um, friends.

No, the ruckus was courtesy of an unannounced guest star.

Mickey D. took center stage for some key moments in the episode. And McFlurry couldn’t possibly ask for a better spokesperson.

This certainly isn’t the first time 30 Rock has played with the convention of product placement, usually in so blatantly that nobody thought much about it. Remember the scene in which Liz brags about her Verizon phone, then looks at the camera and asks, “Can we have our money now?” As an advertising person, I love it.

But this time, apparently, the audience thought the show went a little too far. So many websites complained that Tina Fey issued a statement:

It gives me great pleasure to inform you that the references to McDonald’s in last night’s episode of 30 Rock were in no way product placement. (Nor were they an attempt at product placement that fell through.) We received no money from the McDonald’s Corporation. We were actually a little worried they might sue us. That’s just the kind of revenue-generating masterminds we are.

Also, the upcoming storyline where Liz Lemon starts dating Grimace is just based on a recurring dream I have. Seriously, though, it’s not product placement.

Interestingly, the statement hasn’t satisfied everyone. Some fans claim that it was a set-up to get McDonald’s to buy more commercial time (the company already is a sponsor for 30 Rock). Others note that McDonald’s had to be involved at some point, since a scene was shot in one of the restaurants (which could’ve been a set, but you get the point). A TV Squad reader went so far as to say, “Tina Fey was lying through her teeth.”

Tina Fey a liar? Never! Personally, I think inside jokes are part of 30 Rock’s brilliance. Do you agree? Did the show pimp itself for the sake of a sponsor? Or was this just more pop culture fun? Anyone else craving a soft swirl of vanilla with a hard crunch of candy and cookies?

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