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Posted : 2011-10-03 18:12
Updated : 2011-10-03 18:12

Product placement in full swing


Dokgo Jin, played by Cha Seung-won, uses the Optimus Black, a smartphone by LG Electronics, in the popular TV drama “The Greatest Love.”

IT companies plug latest products on popular TV dramas

By Yoon Ja-young

In the recent popular TV drama, “The Scent of a Woman,” the female protagonist, Yeon-jae, played by Kim Suna, answers her smartphone and viewers may wonder which model it is.

An example of savvy product placement, it was the Galaxy S2 LTE, the latest smartphone released by Samsung Electronics. The pre-release appearance of the handset in the drama has everything to do with typical marketing strategy _ piquing the interest of potential customers well before the product is available.

A number of other handset manufacturers have had TV stars use their latest products in shows before launching them, including LG Electronics’ Optimus Big, Vega No. 5 by Pantech and ‘Xperia Ray’ by Sony Ericsson.

Since the government eased regulations on product placement (PPL), IT companies have actively used the method for promotional purposes.



PPL is an indirect advertisement where products or services are exposed to consumers in TV programs or films, in exchange for monetary compensation from advertisers. A scene from the movie “The Truman Show” is perhaps the most widely known satires of PPL. To the agonizing Truman, played by Jim Carrey, his wife Meryl, says, “Why don’t you let me fix you some of this Mococoa drink, all natural cocoa beans from the upper slopes of Mount Nicaragua, no artificial sweeteners!” beaming with the Mococoa box in her hands. “I've tasted other cocoas, this is the best!" she continues, increasing his suspicions that his life is fabricated.

Generally, however, PPL aims to insert images of the intended products so viewers are unconsciousness of seeing them. It introduces products without giving the impression of an advertisement. As it wants to be presented in as natural a way as possible, PPL often links the product or service to a character or background rather than merely displaying the product or its function.

Even a workplace could be a PPL ― Actor Hyun Bin starred as a CEO of a department store in the popular TV drama “Secret Garden,” and its name was Loel Department Store, which instantly reminded the viewers of the country’s retail conglomerate Lotte. PPL forms the identity of the character. “Unlike conventional advertisements, it goes beyond the simple introduction of a product or exposure of a brand. The products here are the main factor composing the characteristic of the hero or their identity and style,” said Lee Ki-hyun, a researcher at the Korea Creative Content Agency, in a report.

PPL also constitutes the backdrop of a drama or movie, through exposure of a house, shop, or even a region. Provincial governments often utilize PPL in TV dramas, becoming the foundation of the story. They expect tourists will then visit. “This means more than simply being the background. They contribute to the important momentum or motif in the plot,” Lee said.

Producers in need of cash

The country held a rather negative view of PPL, but the government started to change its mind from the mid 2000s. It started allowing PPL in terrestrial broadcasting in May of last year spurred by changes in the advertisement market _ the market share of terrestrial TV advertisements fell to 24.6 percent in 2008 from 40.5 percent in 2001. The development of digital technology gave birth to multiple media and various platforms, causing advertisement on TV to dwindle.

Media companies, meanwhile, needed to diversify their income sources to cope with the country’s transition to digital broadcasting. Production costs of broadcasting programs was continuing to rise as consumers were demanding quality content in the era of globalization. They have diverse international content to choose from, and the shows have to be supreme to be selected. PPL became a lucrative new income source.

Advertisers also welcome PPL, most of all because it works. According to a survey on 734 consumers by Seoul City, PPL was likely to end up in a purchase. It showed that 68 percent said they partly remembered the PPL even after the movie or the program ended. One out of three said they pay attention to the brands or products.

Another attraction of PPL is that advertisers can target their main consumers by selecting targeted content they prefer. “We would place products for young people in programs they like. If we present the right product in the right program, we can quickly spread consumer awareness,” a representative for Samsung Electronics said.

Consequently, PPL is soaring. According to the Korea Broadcast Advertising Corporation data submitted to Rep. Shim Jae-chul of the governing Grand National Party, 906 cases of PPL were recorded so far this year as of August, from 476 for the whole 2010. Broadcasters earned 12.7 billion won through PPL, nearly triple the 4.7 billion won the previous year.

IT and PPL

According to data, Samsung Electronics uses PPL the most actively. Its Galaxy Tab and 3D TVs were placed 58 times in TV programs from January to August this year. Similarly, IT companies were active users of PPL. Eight out of the top 10 companies utilizing PPL were IT companies.

LG Electronics’ 3D TVs and mobile phones came fourth with 43 exposures, and Internet services like NHN and Daum, which operate the country’s big portals, and Internet music service providers like Neowiz Internet and KT Music were also on the list of PPL users.

“In dramas or movies, there are many scenes where cell phones are used naturally as they are a common part of daily life. They can also work to foreshadow the story,” a representative for LG Electronics said. Communication between characters through mobile phones or any other device is an essential part of any TV drama. She added that diverse applications of smartphones are used to add fun to the storylines of TV drama these days. Successful PPL for LG Electronics’ Optimus Black and Optimus Big smartphones was achieved in the popular TV drama “The Greatest Love.” “Consumers pay more interest to the product if the drama becomes a hit. These phones were nicknamed the ‘Dokgo Jin phone’ and ‘Kong Hyo-jin phone’ after the hero and heroine.” The drama also showed the couple actively using Me Today, a social networking service from NHN. It was an important part of the romance.

PPL is effective for the latest IT products and services as they easily catch the attention of the viewers. Furniture companies, in contrast, are mainly negative about PPL luring consumers to buy a desk or chair.

Some are pessimistic about PPL. “The exposure of products in TV programs has quickly risen, but the quality of programming is deteriorating in some cases due to the excessiveness,” Shim said.

Currently, PPL is allowed for entertainment and culture programs, and should take up less than 5 percent of the broadcasting time, and less than one fourth of the screen. Viewers see PPL as interesting for now, but too much of it could cause complaints as it could become distracting

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