Advertising Television

On Pottery Barn, Friends and Advertising…

Do you remember that episode of Friends where Rachel is obsessed by the Pottery Barn? Well when I first saw it I thought to myself – hmmm, what a strange premise for an episode. And because we don’t even have Pottery Barn in the UK, I don’t think it even occurred to me that it was a real shop. If it had, I think I might have raised an eyebrow or two. But one thing that would never have occurred to me is that Pottery Barn might have sponsored the whole episode. I can’t help thinking the whole thing is totally corrupt. I mean I’m used to TV shows having product placement and advertising and sponsorship, but I will not spend my life watching 22 minute long advertainments for huge multi-national companies. I swear to god – it’s my idea of hell…

Excerpt from Adbusters June/July 2000
FRIENDS FOR SALE: Now advertisers can turn sitcom plotlines into product promotions. The Pottery Barn bought an episode of Friends and the right to have Rachel, Ross and the gang spend their 22 minutes of airtime surrounded by Barn decor.

It has always been implicit in television that the programs are just delivery vehicles for the advertising. But that equation got a whole lot more explicit in February, when the production company Basic Entertainment – the money behind such shows as Politically Incorrect and critical darling The Sopranos – agreed to partner up with the world’s second-largest advertising agency, J. Walter Thompson. The two promptly produced a love-child: the agency’s new “content/entertainment” arm, called (c)JWT.

The rationale behind it all: When the ad is the show, it becomes impossible for viewers to mute it, ignore it, or actively miss it whilst getting snacks.