Consumers weary over star-focused marketing wars between clothing brands
Actor Won Bin, left, has been a spokesman for K2, a maker of hiking attire, while television star Kim Soo-hyun appears in advertisements for clothing brand Bean Pole. / Korea Times file
By Kwon Mee-yoo
Actor Kim Soo-hyun, who currently plays a gentle king in the hit TV drama "Moon Embracing the Sun," is advertising Bean Pole Outdoor and joined a horde of entertainers promoting outdoor clothing brands.
The new line has been launched by Cheil Industries and a Bean Pole Outdoor spokeswoman said, "Kim’s image is suitable with the concept of Bean Pole Outdoor, which aims to create sophisticated urban-style outdoor clothing."
Top stars are now competing for spots to make commercials for outdoor clothing brands. Heartthrob actor Zo In-sung, who won acclaim as star of the hit 2004 television series, “Something Happened in Bali,” and starred in the 2008 period fantasy movie, “A frozen flower,” models for Black Yak.
Won Bin, who has starred in hit movies such as “Man from Nowhere” in 2010 and “Mother” in 2009, represents K2. Lee Min-ho, who played Gu Jun-pyo in the hit TV series “Boys Over Flowers,” and Girls' Generation's Yuna represent Eider. Boy bands 2PM and Big Bang model for NEPA and North Face respectively.
These stars are the faces of the exploding industry.
Outdoor apparel was once a dormant market dealing only in goods for climbing or hiking but it is expanding to cover outdoor activities such as bike riding, camping, fishing and walking. It has become popular among students and females.
The outdoor equipment market started to expand rapidly from the late 2000s. Last year, the industry marked sales over 4 trillion won and expects to exceed 5 trillion this year.
With the expansion of the market, outdoor brands hired famous actors and singers for their advertisements. Stars also like to appear on such commercials to show off their healthy and fit image.
Previously, mountaineers were more common in commercials for outdoor clothing brands to emphasize their professionalism. In 2009, North Face used actress Kong Hyo-jin, suggesting an outdoor look for young women and changed the advertising scene for outdoor apparel marketing.
Many commercials for these brands feature models engaged in outdoor activities. Lee Min-ho and Yuna went rock-climbing in French firm Eider's ad while singer Lee Seung-gi for Kolon Sports and Won Bin for K2 went all the way to New Zealand to shoot commercials.
Though the companies declined to disclose the amount they paid for commercials, industry sources say each celebrity model earned around 1 billion won.
Civic organizations have criticized using expensive stars in commercials, which might lead to increases in prices.
"They paid a lot for their models and they have to make the most out of them, resulting in a series of outdoor brand advertisements everywhere," a Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) official said. "The burden is transferred to customers, especially young students who readily react to the star-studded commercials."
As criticism on marketing using K-pop singers targeting teenagers has mounted, North Face scrapped plans to air a TV commercial featuring Big Bang, which signed a contract to promote the company’s spring/summer promotion.
"We will focus on advertisements emphasizing our functional, technical aspects instead of those featuring popular stars," a North Face spokeswoman said.
The firms have also moved toward product placement to avoid further criticism on expensive advertising expenses for stars.
NEPA is providing its clothing to KBS drama "Dream High 2" and Montbell and Black Yak does the same for other series and variety shows.
It costs about 30-40 million won to sponsor and advertise indirectly in an episode of a television show. The price rises if the character is in the fashion business and more if the brand is introduced in the drama.
“Product placement is cheaper than casting top stars in commercials and about one third of the viewers remember the sponsored brand, which proves the positive effect of such advertising,” a product placement agency spokeswoman said.