G.E. Is Totally Cool With 30 Rock, You Guys

Say you’re a PR/branding exec at a big corporation. Say there’s a certain sitcom that’s been making fun of you mercilessly for seven years (while appearing on a network that you once owned). What would you do?

Well, if you’re General Electric and that sitcom is 30 Rock, you embrace it after maintaining an adversarial relationship for more than six seasons. G.E., which has seen its “Six Sigma” super-productivity culture mocked repeatedly by Tina Fey, recently decided to let the public know that it is totally in on the joke.

We weren’t the only ones who noticed the company’s weird “thank you” commercial on last week’s episode. Global director of brand management Linda Boff explained everything to Ad Age, saying “G.E. employees and G.E. executives have laughed for the last seven years along with the rest of the audience.”

Oh yeah? Something tells us that former CEO/conspiracy theorist Jack Welch (aka Jack Donaghy) didn’t even chuckle, but at least somebody has a sense of humor.

It’s a bit of a rebranding, really:

G.E. didn’t just create a series of spots thanking the show for making its employees laugh; it also curated a “favorite moments” page on the show’s official website.

Boff explains the strategy further: “We want to be a brand that is focused on moments that are real — ‘moments of now’ — where there is both chatter on the ‘first screen'” and the “second and third screens, as people are sharing stuff.”

So yeah, it’s a shift in perspective–but it’s really not such a dramatic change. Brands have long followed the Seinfeld product placement model (think Arby’s, Ovaltine and Junior Mints) by allowing 30 Rock‘s writers to work their products into the show while making fun of them at the same time. All publicity is good publicity, right?

Of course, this newfound chumminess might have something to do with G.E.’s agreement to buy $60 million in advertising on NBC each year (the deal was set up when G.E. agreed to sell a controlling stake in NBC Universal to Comcast, aka Kabletown).

But hey, at least they can take a joke now.