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Spot the Difference: Ad or Korean Drama? (Part 2)

Updated: Oct 11, 2021

Spot the Difference: Ad or Korean Drama? (Part 2)

Notable product placement mentions

Although the list of products being advertised in K-dramas is endless, there are a few notable scenes that absolutely need mentioning. Plus, they’re on Netflix for you to binge-watch as well!

Kopiko Candy in Vincenzo

Photos from Vicenzo on Netflix

A Korean Italian mafia played by the famous Song Joong Ki. You absolutely cannot miss talks about Vincenzo, one of the most popular dramas that have got the Internet buzzing.

The appearance of Kopiko’s coffee candy was seen multiple times throughout the 20-episodes-long series. It usually comes in at the most random time with the protagonist being stressed by the conflict before someone offers the candy to them.

There would be an extremely close and clear shot of them breaking off a piece of the candy from the package which can seem very out of the blue when compared to the scene before. This is then usually accompanied by a shot of instant relief and pleasure is evident on their face after consuming the product.

Cell return LED mask in The King: Eternal Monarch

Photo from The King: Eternal Monarch on Netflix

The next honourable mention would be the LED robot mask in The King: Eternal Monarch. This drama is said to be the crème de la crème when it comes to product placement. It had been criticised heavily for the excessive product placement but nothing can top the Iron-Man-looking mask that is prominently shown in the drama. Multiple characters in the drama have been seen adorning this mask throughout the episodes.

Do you know what doesn’t help? The fact that the mask retails for over 2000 dollars!

Subway in Guardian: The Lonely and Great God

Photo from Guardian: The Lonely and Great God on Netflix

Subway is no stranger to the advertising game in K-dramas. Traces of their breadcrumbs can be found in many well-known dramas through the years. However, the iconic scene from “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” stole the show when it comes to the level of absurdity it showed. The protagonist, Kim Shin, is seen to be comforting a suicidal man and helping him by handing over a Subway sandwich. You would be surprised at how much power a Subway sandwich holds.

Mixed reactions

Though you might think that excessive advertisements would throw people off, that is not always the case. Products that are promoted in K-dramas usually see an increase in sales. This is because certain viewers are influenced to follow and be up to date with current trends.

A perfect example would be a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes that were worn by the actress in the drama “My Love from the Star”. According to an article by South China Morning Post, the shoes were sold out all across Asia within days after the episode aired. This shows that product placement is good for business and therefore, it becomes a never-ending cycle.

However, there are responses from the other end as well. Viewers have outwardly voiced their displeasure towards this matter online. Oftentimes, the appearance of the product is completely unnatural and unrelated to the plot of the drama. Imagine watching an intense exchange that has you on the edge of your seat but a random close up shot of candy suddenly appears and the conflict is solved after eating it. It is disappointing and can cause audience interest to fall. It is no longer an advertisement in K-dramas but a K-drama in advertisements.

Some audiences might even take offence to this form of advertising! Ethically speaking, some would question if it is right to even push products in a light that can be borderline unrealistic. These untrue and aggressive portrayals of products can lead to a lack of trust and a feeling of dislike towards a certain brand.

Whether you love it or hate it, product placements in K-dramas are an extraordinary phenomenon that you cannot miss if you are riding on the K-Wave. There are times when it is cleverly done but there are also moments when the product is shoved aggressively through the screen. Given the profits businesses are able to earn from this form of advertising, it will most likely be around for a long time. So let’s all laugh and enjoy the creativity!

By: Yuki Teh


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