‘Saturday Night Live’ to Produce Real Ads for Apple

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Since first hitting the airwaves in 1975, NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” (SNL) has created fake ads to complement the sketch comedy for which the show is justly famous. Now, the SNL crew is taking a step forward (backward?) and creating real ads.

The first of the real ads will be broadcast during the April 8 show. The ad, for Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), was written by SNL’s “Weekend Update” anchor Colin Jost and will feature cast member Kenan Thompson according to a report in Variety. SNL has also struck a deal with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) to create real ads that are expected to be broadcast within a few weeks.

While the content of the ads hasn’t been revealed, the idea behind them, from SNL’s point of view, is to attract eyeballs for the live show. Lorne Michaels, executive producer of SNL, put it this way:

Everyone is struggling now in a world where there is so much media. We are all competing for sponsors, and everything is being reinvented. ‘SNL’ has been reinventing itself from season two.

SNL is having a resurgence as a result of its political satire. The show will broadcast the last four episodes of its current season live all across the country, beginning with the April 15 broadcast. According to zap2it.com, SNL has posted its best ratings in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic since 2008-2009 and its largest total audience since the early 1990s.

Michaels told Variety, “We are doing what we always do, but the difference is that everyone is paying attention.” Variety noted the impact on SNL’s ad rates:

The cost of a 30-second spot in “Saturday Night Live,” which is enjoying its highest-rated season in more than two decades, soared 43.5% in February, to $110,000, according to Standard Media Index, a tracker of ad expenditures, compared with $76,900 in the year-earlier period. The show captures around $115 million in advertising each year, according to Kantar Media.

For Apple and Verizon, hitching their wagons to a mass media property that is hugely popular with the age group they want to address is an idea worth taking a gamble on.