SEOUL- The export success of South Korea’s TV dramas has spawned a hard-selling world of branded entertainment that uses product placement to push everything from smartphones to lipsticks.
The so-called Hallyu (Korean Wave) of TV shows and pop music has long conquered most of Asia and, in recent years, found new, devoted fans in the Middle East, Latin America and North Africa.
The vast audiences opened stealth marketing opportunities that have become distinctly less stealthy as competition has intensified.
South Korean firms now spend millions of dollars ensuring lovers in popular soap operas confess their feelings via Samsung smartphones, kiss in Hyundai cars and move into a house equipped with a giant LG TV. The power of the most popular dramas to launch new trends and boost existing ones was displayed by the recent production “My Love from the Star” — an unlikely love story between a top female movie star and a 400-year-old alien disguised as a human.
The SBS television show was a huge hit, especially in China where it triggered a craze for Korean-style fried chicken and beer, the favoured comfort food of the show’s heroine — played by Gianna Jun.
The main characters talked and sent texts on Samsung’s Galaxy Note smartphones, or chatted via the Line mobile app made by Naver, Seoul’s top Internet portal. Jun’s character used lotions and lipsticks made by Amorepacific, the South’s largest cosmetics firm. Supporting characters had an insatiable taste for mini-desserts made by CJ — the country’s top food company.
The exposure clearly pays off.
Amorepacific said sales of the skincare products and lipsticks used by Jun surged 75 percent and 400 percent respectively, largely thanks to booming sales in China. “In the past, PPL (product placement) on South Korean TV shows boosted domestic sales only,” the company said in an e-mail statement to Agence France-Presse. “But we’ve recently seen it having an immediate and widespread impact in Asia, especially in China,” it said.
Amorepacific’s overseas sales grew 28 percent in 2013, boosted by 29-percent expansion in China — the firm’s largest market abroad. More than 90 percent of PPL deals on South Korean soap operas involve domestic firms, but foreign companies are also being attracted by the lure of improved sales in a key regional market. In “My Love From the Star,” a pair of $625 Jimmy Choo shoes worn by Jun sold out in shoe stores across Asia within days. Even more dramatically, it only took a rumour — the brand name never appeared — that the lipstick Jun used in one episode was from Yves St Laurent to cause a similar run on that product… see more