An Analysis of 30 Rock’s Slanket Occurrence
My Product Displacement blog was the subject of an AdFreak post which identified Slanket as a real product. Slanket was featured in an episode of 30 Rock in which Tracy Jordan debates presenting it as a gift for his wife. I was not aware that Slanket was an actual product and the predecessor to the now infamous Snuggie. Given all of the attention that Snuggie has received in recent months, I naturally assumed that the Slanket occurrence was another ingenious 30 Rock parody. I’m glad that AdFreak pointed out my mistake because it illustrates my assertion that fictionalized product displacements require audiences to draw upon a shared cultural knowledge. The frequency of Snuggie’s cheesy infomercial became an economic indicator during a period in which networks were forced to slash commercial rates because traditional companies were drastically reducing their ad spending. It was in this environment that the Snuggie sold over 4 million units and emerged as not only a successful business, but a pop culture symbol as well.
Given 30 Rock’s notoriety for parodying products–both fictional (Sabor De Soledad) and fictionalized (WideBalance)–it’s understandable that viewers would mistake Slanket for a fake product. As Emily Nussbaum pointed out in her New York Magazine article about the sitcom’s SoyJoy integration, 30 Rock often leaves viewers wondering whether products are real or not. The show, which held brand integration deals with Snapple, Verizon and NBC’s parent company, General Electric, has been criticized for its ubiquitous use of product placements. Most recently, Tina Fey came under fire after McDonald’s was heavily featured during a Valentine’s Day episode.
What made the Slanket occurrence so memorable and funny was Liz Lemon wearing the robe and blurting out, “It’s not product placement, I just like it” in an obviously very tongue-in-cheek response to critics. Although the Slanket is indeed a real product, because Snuggie situated itself in our national consciousness, it ultimately functions as a fictionalized product. Afterall, Slanket’s inclusion on 30 Rock emphasizes the robe’s absurdity rather than its necessity. In addition, Slanket’s blatant inclusion and its metafictive reference as a product placement, serves as a way of downplaying 30 Rock’s legitimate brand integration deals as one huge joke that helps the show retain its artistic and comedic integrity. Regardless of whether Slanket was a real product or a fictionalized displacement, it provided viewers with a hyper awareness of brand integrations while also allowing them laugh at how marketing campaigns are executed.