‘Friends’: Show’s Best Product Placement Arc Was So Seamless Fans Didn’t Notice

Product placement in movies and TV is a bit of a sore spot for some viewers, particularly when products are used so blatantly as marketing gimmicks. This never stops product placements from continuing, sometimes very obviously, including in TV shows.

Shows from the past were never immune, including classics like Friends. Yes, it seems they had a particular deal going with a certain cookie company (as starters) based on one key episode.

What is the real story behind the famous episode involving Nestle Toll House cookies? The Friends episode had a clever little twist if probably helping Nestle’s cookie sales…as if they really needed the boost.

Surrounding this was Phoebe trying to create her mysterious grandmother’s unique cookie recipe.

The one about Nestle Toul-house

The plot of this episode aired in the seventh season of Friends on October 19, 2000. Called The One About Phoebe’s Cookies, it involved Phoebe making a cookie recipe from her grandmother who died years earlier. This was a recipe Phoebe’s grandmother supposedly took on from former’s French great-great-grandmother and kept a secret.

Of course, the joke was the recipe came from Nestle Toulouse (Toul-house), despite Phoebe not catching on to what this really means. She makes the cookies, and Monica tries to recreate them herself.

Phoebe’s main purpose for doing this is to give Monica a gift for her engagement. Apparently the original recipe was destroyed in a fire, leading them to figure out the recipe from scratch.

Later, it turns out Phoebe’s grandmother merely took the recipe from a package of Nestle Toll House chocolate chips, proving her grandmother was the worst fibber.

Because of the name change, the product placement seemed innocent

Friends
Friends | NBCU Photo Bank

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Some might accuse Friends of catering to promoting Nestle Toll House cookies. After all, having the product name hidden as a French moniker was a clever touch without resorting to showing the actual product name on camera.

Nevertheless, the show did have quite a few product placements during its run. Entertainment Weekly compiled a list of the most effective (or egregious) over the show’s decade run.

According to EW, the Toll House episode was mostly harmless, thanks to Phoebe’s hilarious reaction when finding out where her grandmother’s cookies really came from. In comparison, it was nothing like a few other popular products showing up along the way, some of which involved a Porsche and Toblerone as just two.

What other products made Friends a bastion for corporations wanting to promote their wares? And did Nestle have a secret deal with the Friends production team?

Did Nestle experience a surge in sales?

No records exist to prove if Nestle Toll House chocolate chips started selling better after their exposure on Friends. Considering the show was the #1 sitcom on TV then, one has to assume they saw a spike. Plus, some may think corporate America bombarded the showrunners with offers to promote their products in key episodes.

Based on the track record of A-list products showing up there, it worked. Beyond Porsche and Toblerone, Bijan for Men, a foosball table, Barcaloungers, and Dyson vacuums were all featured at one time or another.

Even the proverbial appearances of Coke and KFC occurred as well. Just about every major product brand showed up, if not always the main subject of the episode plot. Then again, nearly every product appearance was incorporated into the story cleverly without seeming cheap.

Having Nestle Toll House at the center of a story was a bit of writing brilliance while ultimately bringing a likely check. Or, maybe the writers received a lifetime supply of Nestle products.