Product plugs in dramas are nothing new—whether they’re done blatantly, without much thought about whether they fit in a scene, or tastefully slipped into the script.
But K-dramas, in particular, take product placements to a new high (or should that be low?) by featuring an endless stream of them, both obvious and subtle, in one single episode—from fried chicken joints to lipsticks, and cars to kimchi. Korean drama aficionados are totally used to having a coffee brand suddenly thrust into focus as the protagonist is, say, having an argument with someone while making her cup of joe.
And in recent memory, some of these product placements have garnered more attention than others, either thanks to their appearances being totally bizarre and laughable, or—in the case of just-concluded ratings hit Vincenzo—being a bit of a cultural hot potato. Here are six memorable product placements in your fave K-dramas.
1. Zihaiguo bibimbap (Vincenzo)
A hullabaloo over bibimbap recently exploded as netizens cried foul over the product placement of a brand of instant bibimbap, which was being shown eaten by Vincenzo lead actors Song Joong-ki and Jeon Yeo-been.
What’s wrong with bibimbap being advertised in a K-drama, you may ask? The problem is that the well-loved Korean staple in question is from Chinese brand Zihaiguo. And with Korean and Chinese netizens already at war over the origins of kimchi and the hanbok, the thought that viewers might think bibimbap was a Chinese dish was too much for Korean K-drama fans.
The furore got so out of hand that Song Joong-ki had to apologise to South Koreans for being filmed with Chinese-made bibimbap. According to the actor, it is “right to apologise to those who are disappointed with our programme”. Just a reminder to K-drama producers: While it’s tempting to accept ad money from any brand to cover huge production costs, going about it insensibly could end up in product placements backfiring.