Again in 2000, Mates made Pottery Barn’s apothecary desk — a darkish wooden storage bench with a bunch of brass-knobbed drawers — well-known when it solid it because the centerpiece of the aptly named episode “The One With the Apothecary Table.” This month, Pottery Barn will rerelease the piece in collaboration with Warner Bros. to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the sitcom’s premiere.
“[W]e brought back the beloved Apothecary Table (from the days of yore),” reads a temporary landing page for the brand new assortment launching on-line July 30. It’s already on sale within the present Pottery Barn catalog for $1,099. (The apothecary desk within the episode set Rachel again $500.) “Could we BE any more excited?” reads the catalog copy in Chandler Bing cadence.
“We are thrilled to partner with Warner Bros. to bring an inspired collection to life for FRIENDS fans,” a Pottery Barn spokesperson instructed Vox in an emailed joint assertion with Warner Bros. “The iconic Apothecary Coffee Table is just one of the items featured in this special collection.” The opposite items stay below embargo till the tip of the month however seem to incorporate a tasseled pillow embroidered with “Welcome Mates” within the sequence’ recognizable font for $49.50, and Central Perk mugs for $14.50 apiece.
The rerelease revives an previous dialog on what’s typically considered product placement in movie and TV (though “product placement” suggests that cash has modified arms, which isn’t all the time the case — extra on that later). It additionally raises a brand new query: Is there such a factor as retrofitted product placement?
5 of the six core buddies on Mates utter the phrases “Pottery Barn” a complete of 18 instances within the apothecary desk episode. “You got it from Pottery Barn?” Monica asks, aghast, as Rachel pores over the pages of a mailer from the shop. “Yeah! It’s an apothecary table,” says Rachel. However Monica is aware of one thing that Rachel doesn’t: Phoebe refuses to buy on the retailer that Rachel adores.
The apothecary desk isn’t the one one in every of Pottery Barn’s 2000-era merchandise to seem onscreen: There’s one thing known as an “ornamental birdcage,” and the “Sahara desk,” and the “Parker console table.” Says Ross, “Your place looks like page 72 of the catalog.” Later, Rachel and Phoebe cease in entrance of a retailer window, Pottery Barn’s emblem affixed to the glass, earlier than heading inside to purchase a Pottery Barn lamp.
Students cite this episode as a trademark template for product placement in leisure. “This well-integrated reference to a brand is a prime example of the proliferation of product placement, the practice of placing branded products in the content of mass media programming,” writes Cristel Russell, a advertising professor at American College specializing in product placement, for the Journal of Consumer Research in 2002, including that advertising sources in 2000 estimated that advertisers paid Hollywood studios $360 million a 12 months to showcase their stuff.
However Pottery Barn has maintained that no cash exchanged arms. The house items retailer told BuzzFeed final 12 months that Pottery Barn didn’t pay for its product to seem within the episode: “The table was donated and we continue to be grateful for inclusion in this episode.”
Manufacturing designer Greg Grande, who labored because the set decorator on Mates for your entire 10-year run of the sequence, backs that up. He usually acquired product affords from corporations, “with the right to use it for free and not ‘greek’ out the name,” he says, referring to the artwork design observe of changing textual content with nonsense phrases. Within the present’s heyday, he tells Vox, it was frequent observe for manufacturers to donate props and set ornament to Mates, ostensibly in trade for visibility of their manufacturers.
“Name recognition today is different from back then,” says Grande, a veteran of the leisure trade for the previous three a long time. “Name recognition back then would most likely just be the product use for free. Today it is negotiated with a fee.”
Most frequently, he acquired donated meals, drinks, wine, and “stereo-type” stuff. “Furniture pieces didn’t really have the same recognition value as products on a shelf,” he provides. “In this case, the apothecary table was definitely a ‘thing,’” since Pottery Barn was so widespread with Mates’ target market already. As soon as producers ironed out the association, Pottery Barn gave Grande “carte blanche” to buy its retailer on the Beverly Middle in Los Angeles, “and outfit Phoebe’s apartment however I chose to.”
The apothecary desk began not as a prop to be labored into the script, says Grande, however on the web page as a “story point.” The unique define and story he acquired featured the apothecary desk prominently, and it was then the duty of Grande and his staff to supply the appropriate product. Says John Shaffner, the episode’s manufacturing designer, “I do remember the table and some discussion about it as being the exact thing we needed.”
Pottery Barn and Warner Bros. declined to touch upon the episode in query, in addition to the character of the businesses’ relationship other than their present and previous product collaborations. (Final 12 months Pottery Barn Kids debuted a Harry Potter-impressed bed room assortment with Warner Bros.) Nonetheless, previous feedback from senior administration at each Pottery Barn and Warner Bros. reference the character of that relationship.
Patrick Connolly, then government VP and CMO of Pottery Barn’s dad or mum firm Williams-Sonoma Inc., told attendees of the 2004 Catalog Conference that syndication of the apothecary desk episode is “the gift that keeps on giving. The phones light up with catalog requests every time it airs.” And the 2002 guide Massive Media, Massive Cash: Cultural Texts and Political Economics cites that Peter Roth, then president of Warner Bros. Tv, stated the deal helped “offset the high cost of production.”
Hollywood Branded, a content material advertising platform, reports that 85 p.c of individuals discover product placement onscreen, and 57 p.c purchase merchandise seen in movie and TV.
So what occurs when what we would consider as “product placement” isn’t product positioned in a present or movie to promote that product, however as a substitute a product positioned in a retailer to, maybe, promote (or not less than reference) a present or movie? Can Pottery Barn’s new apothecary desk (riffing on its previous apothecary desk) be thought of reverse-engineered product placement? Or is it merely one other instance of a longstanding symbiotic relationship in media and merchandising?
As Kaitlyn Tiffany writes for Vox, manufacturers are more and more tying merchandise to widespread properties and advertising in opposition to their premieres. The third season of Stranger Issues is a current instance. Loads of 1980s-era merchandise, like New Coke, seem within the present — and will appear to be product placement. However as Netflix instructed Vox, “Not one of the manufacturers and merchandise that seem in Stranger Issues 3 have been paid for or positioned by third events. They’re all a part of the Duffer Brothers’ storytelling, which references 1980s shopper and widespread tradition.” The cost, in impact, is model consciousness. You watch Eleven eat an Eggo waffle on Stranger Issues. Later, you would possibly choose up a field of Eggo waffles on the retailer.
Eggos and New Coke assist inform the story of the time, too — they’re narrative instruments simply as a lot as they’re promoting instruments. Within the case of Mates, Rachel and Ross’s spend-a-thons at Pottery Barn tells the story of Pottery Barn’s ubiquity within the early 2000s. Entertainment Weekly’s review lauded “the mockery of omnipresent Pottery Barn, which almost makes its mailbox-clogging catalogs seem worthwhile.”
What stays distinctive about Mates and “The One With the Apothecary Table” is that the episode’s references to Pottery Barn aren’t all the time constructive. Phoebe hates Pottery Barn — hates it! — as a result of “she hates all mass-produced stuff.” She needs her furnishings to “have a history, a story behind it.”
Pottery Barn’s $1,099 Mates Apothecary Desk, does, in a means, have a historical past and a narrative: It starred on Mates.
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Stephie Grob Plante