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 Desk.” 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 introduced again the beloved Apothecary Desk (from the times of yore),” reads a brief touchdown web 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.) “May we BE any extra excited?” reads the catalog copy in Chandler Bing cadence.
“We’re thrilled to companion with Warner Bros. to convey an impressed assortment to life for FRIENDS followers,” a Pottery Barn spokesperson informed Vox in an emailed joint assertion with Warner Bros. “The enduring Apothecary Espresso Desk is simply one of many objects featured on this particular assortment.” The opposite items stay beneath embargo till the top of the month however seem to incorporate a tasseled pillow embroidered with “Welcome Mates” within the collection’ recognizable font for $49.50, and Central Perk mugs for $14.50 apiece.
The rerelease revives an previous dialog on what’s typically regarded as product placement in movie and TV (though “product placement” suggests that cash has modified fingers, which isn’t at all times 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 pals on Mates utter the phrases “Pottery Barn” a complete of 18 occasions within the apothecary desk episode. “You bought it from Pottery Barn?” Monica asks, aghast, as Rachel pores over the pages of a mailer from the shop. “Yeah! It’s an apothecary desk,” 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 among Pottery Barn’s 2000-era merchandise to look onscreen: There’s one thing referred to as an “decorative birdcage,” and the “Sahara desk,” and the “Parker console desk.” Says Ross, “Your house seems like web 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 an indicator template for product placement in leisure. “This well-integrated reference to a model is a major instance of the proliferation of product placement, the apply of inserting branded merchandise within the content material of mass media programming,” writes Cristel Russell, a advertising professor at American College specializing in product placement, for the Journal of Shopper Analysis in 2002, including that advertising assets 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 fingers. The house items retailer informed BuzzFeed final 12 months that Pottery Barn didn’t pay for its product to look within the episode: “The desk was donated and we proceed to be glad about inclusion on this episode.”
Manufacturing designer Greg Grande, who labored because the set decorator on Mates for your complete 10-year run of the collection, backs that up. He usually obtained product presents from firms, “with the best to make use of it free of charge and never ‘greek’ out the identify,” he says, referring to the artwork design apply of changing textual content with nonsense phrases. Within the present’s heyday, he tells Vox, it was frequent apply for manufacturers to donate props and set ornament to Mates, ostensibly in alternate for visibility of their manufacturers.
“Title recognition in the present day is completely different from again then,” says Grande, a veteran of the leisure business for the previous three many years. “Title recognition again then would most certainly simply be the product use free of charge. Right now it’s negotiated with a payment.”
Most frequently, he obtained donated meals, drinks, wine, and “stereo-type” stuff. “Furnishings items didn’t actually have the identical recognition worth as merchandise on a shelf,” he provides. “On this case, the apothecary desk was positively a ‘factor,’” since Pottery Barn was so standard with Mates’ audience 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 condo nonetheless I selected 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 level.” The unique define and story he obtained featured the apothecary desk prominently, and it was then the duty of Grande and his group to supply the best product. Says John Shaffner, the episode’s manufacturing designer, “I do keep in mind the desk and a few dialogue about it as being the precise factor we wanted.”
Pottery Barn and Warner Bros. declined to touch upon the episode in query, in addition to the character of the businesses’ relationship aside from their present and previous product collaborations. (Final 12 months Pottery Barn Children debuted a Harry Potter-inspired bed room assortment with Warner Bros.) Nevertheless, 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 father or mother firm Williams-Sonoma Inc., informed attendees of the 2004 Catalog Convention that syndication of the apothecary desk episode is “the reward that retains on giving. The telephones gentle up with catalog requests each time it airs.” And the 2002 guide Large Media, Large Cash: Cultural Texts and Political Economics cites that Peter Roth, then president of Warner Bros. Tv, stated the deal helped “offset the excessive value of manufacturing.”
Hollywood Branded, a content material advertising platform, reviews that 85 p.c of individuals discover product placement onscreen, and 57 p.c purchase merchandise seen in movie and TV.
The apothecary desk, up to date for 2019. Pottery Barn
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 an alternative a product positioned in a retailer to, maybe, promote (or no less than reference) a present or movie? Can Pottery Barn’s new apothecary desk (riffing on its previous apothecary desk) be thought-about 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 standard properties and advertising in opposition to their premieres. The third season of Stranger Issues is a latest instance. Loads of 1980s-era merchandise, like New Coke, seem within the present — and will look like product placement. However as Netflix informed Vox, “Not one of the manufacturers and merchandise that seem in Stranger Issues three have been paid for or positioned by third events. They’re all a part of the Duffer Brothers’ storytelling, which references 1980s client and standard tradition.” The fee, in impact, is model consciousness. You watch Eleven eat an Eggo waffle on Stranger Issues. Later, you would possibly decide 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. Leisure Weekly’s evaluation lauded “the mockery of omnipresent Pottery Barn, which just about makes its mailbox-clogging catalogs appear worthwhile.”
What stays distinctive about Mates and “The One With the Apothecary Desk” is that the episode’s references to Pottery Barn are usually not at all times constructive. Phoebe hates Pottery Barn — hates it! — as a result of “she hates all mass-produced stuff.” She needs her furnishings to “have a historical past, a narrative behind it.”
Pottery Barn’s $1,099 Mates Apothecary Desk, does, in a manner, have a historical past and a narrative: It starred on Mates.
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