The 9 most common product placements seen in K-dramas
We've all seen it. Dramas are notorious for integrating advertisements into their scripted settings. You'll be watching your favorite drama and suddenly realize that logos are staring at you from all angles of the screen. Everywhere we turn in Dramaland, there is another product on display for us viewers, often on a silver platter. Here is a list of some of the most common targets of product placement:
1. Cell Phones
(As seen in My Love From Another Star and every single modern day K-drama)
Phones and dramas are practically inseparable. In the last few years, Samsung and LG have completely dominated the K-drama phone market. Characters now tote around their phones in what seems like almost every scene. Going along with the phones are the inclusion of fancy cases and the use of messaging apps like LINE and Kakao. Which type of phone is your favorite?
2. Coffee Shops
Coffee shops are almost as likely to appear as cell phones. At some point in a K-drama, there will be at least one discussion/date/argument that occurs at a coffee shop. I'm almost certain it's a Dramaland rule. In addition, I can almost guarantee that there are perfectly placed, untouched drinks on the table!
(As seen in Doctor Stranger)
Worse yet, it's highly likely that a character will end up working at one of these coffee chains. There's no escaping this type of product placement!
3. Athletic Shoes
(As seen in Heirs)
If I made a list of gifts most given in K-dramas, sporty gym shoes are towards the top. Brands like Asics and Adidas have been pretty forceful in promoting their shoes in the drama setting.
Ironically, the superstition in Korea is that giving shoes as a gift to your loved one means that they will run away from you. Ha, now that I think about it, it's usually the second leads that do the shoe gift giving. I see what you're doing there, clever drama writers!
4. Winter Jackets
(As seen in Pretty Man)
Whenever I watch a drama that aired during the winter, I find myself suddenly drawn to the big puffy jackets that are worn by all the drama characters. Yes, I absolutely NEED a bright red jacket with a giant fur lined hood. Why even ask?
(As seen in My Love From Another Star)
Just look at the lipstick craze that My Love From Another Star sparked. For many months it became impossible to buy Yves Saint Laurent's Rouge Pur Couture in No. 52 Rosy Coral worldwide, all because Jeon Ji Hyun’s character is rumored to have worn it during the series. Korean dramas are the perfect place to market lipstick, and I'm sure that the cosmetic companies are well aware of this opportunity.
See Jung Il Woo fight ghosts and monsters in his quest to become the rightful ruler of Joseon in The Night Watchman’s Journal
6. Fast Food
(As seen in The Prime Minister and I)
Restaurant chains are starting to give the coffee shops some serious competition for screen time. I always get a kick out of seeing familiar American restaurants like Subway appear in K-dramas .
But drama writers, are you actually trying to convince me it's perfectly normal to order a GIANT 3 ft Subway sandwich to share between two people? I'm sure you've noticed by now that subtlety is rarely the name of the game when it comes to product placement...
(In case you were wondering, I looked up the serving size of the 3 ft sandwich. It contains 18 two-inch portions and should serve 9-15 people. I can't imagine Yoon Ah and Yoon Si Yoon eating more than a few bites!)
(As seen in Coffee Prince)
Cars are an important prop in K-dramas to get the characters from point A to B. Also, you can't be a rich chaebol without a fancy car to go with! After watching Coffee Prince, my heart still flutters when I see a Mini Cooper drive by. I always do quick glance to check for checkered mirrors.
(As seen in Fated to Love You)
You'll notice though that many of the cars have their logos covered up. This means that they aren't officially being advertised. Nonetheless, it's usually very, very easy to tell exactly which brand is being used.
(As seen in Good Doctor)
TVs and other types of electronics pop up rather frequently in K-dramas. While I personally have no use for a 3-D TV, I do rather like watching the drama characters look silly as they make exaggerated motions to grab at the images on the screen.
Last but not least is the wide variety of drinks that appear throughout many dramas. Some shows even do a good job incorporating a particular drink into the storyline. I still chuckle when I think of Mi Ho's obsession with cider!
(As seen in Greatest Love)
But if I had to pick my all-time favorite product placement, I'm going to go with the Vitamin Water in Greatest Love. Dokko Jin's image plastered on the side was a perfect fit for his character. Other dramas could learn from this creative and tactful use of product placement!
Do you often spot these products while watching K-dramas? What other types of items do you see? Do you find product placement amusing or annoying? Do you think these ads actually work?
Please share your thoughts below!