Product placement in the entertainment industry is just one of those necessary evils these days. Most television budgets rely on a healthy dose of product integration to pay the bills. And in the past we’ve taken a look at the 10 Movies With The Worst Product Placement, but our interest was piqued again recently when New York Magazine shed some light on the ad sales train wreck over at Mad TV.

The show has been suffering from lagging ratings for years in their unending bid to compete with Saturday Night Live. But when Toyota became a major sponsor, their big idea was to remove the comedy and parody from the sketches and replace it with faked product appreciation.

The feature in NY Mag explains:

The deal they’d cut guaranteed four sketches for Toyota. Classic product placement, and if it kept them on the air, where was the harm? But then Blasucci started to get notes. Showing the Yaris wasn’t sufficient, said the rep from Madison Road. The characters must praise the car’s features: its roomy interior, its sleek lines. The writers pitched a spoof of a commercial, with a young couple making out in the Yaris, panting about its fuel efficiency. No, said Madison Road. Cut the parody bit. The skit should just feature the couple panting over the Yaris. They aired it.

Plus here’s the obligatory accompanying video history of product placement:

Is it at all ironic that this video is prefaced by an embedded commercial?

I think the best policy in these instances should be total transparency with the viewers/readers. Just come out and say it. Show off the logos, don’t try and be clever and slick with tilted cans and nonchalant ‘genuine’ mentions.

Can you think of a better policy than what Mike Meyers did with Pizza Hut in Wayne’s World or what they are doing with Verizon on 30 Rock? Let us know in the comments.

NY Mag: What Tina Fey Would Do For A SoyJoy, October 5, 2008