Product placement (advertising/marketing) plays a huge role in Kdramas. That’s how we get to watch the drama free. For that we are thankful, but sometimes products are written into the drama’s script when it isn’t necessary to be there. Dunkin’ Donuts at the Korean Demilitarized Zone in ‘King 2 Hearts’? Pfft. Shopping for your girlfriend at The North Face in ‘The Innocent Man’? If I were the boyfriend I’d think Forever 21 would be a safer bet.
Mama Mushroom asked me once why that man is talking on the phone but the camera pans towards the beer that he’s holding? She then blames the cameraman. Then I told Mama Mushroom that zooming into that beer probably help them rake in tens of thousands of dollars. Maybe even more!
Since I have pretty much given up on Level 7 Civil Servant‘s storyline, I decided to pick out the products and companies that are sponsoring the drama through watching the episode. Come on board for a lesson in Kdramaland Product Placement!
Before we learn more about product placement, let us take some time to admire the stupidity of a scene in episode 13. Gil Ro is in his car watching Seo Won getting into her car and driving off. Suddenly recalling the words that he overheard her saying, he gets out of his car and starts running after her car. Man versus machine here. No matter how fast he runs he will never catch up to a moving, accelerating car. Dude, you were sitting in a car. Didn’t it occur to you to drive? What made you think that running will be more effective than driving? Does running display more raw emotions than driving? You obviously did not get the note that it also displays stupidity. Dude, you own a car for a reason. End of rant.
Let’s start exploring some product placements in episode 13 to 16! I may not be correct in all instances so leave a comment if you think otherwise!
The most common product that appears in K-dramas is cell phones. I think most people do not have a problem with this as it is one of the most common communication tools used by everyone. With product placement, the good guy, the villain, the best friend, the penniless guy who happens to afford a cell phone, parents, relatives and basically any living, breathing human being in the drama has the same cell phone but probably in different colours. In Level 7 Civil Servant all the characters have the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 cell phone. Gil Ro has one in blue, Seo Won in white, President Han in black and Kim Won Seok gave a pink one to his daughter. At least they are doing regular stuff on the phone: taking pictures, recording videos and calling. In some other dramas, I have seen the main lead take landscape photography with burst mode. I rolled my eyes at the stupidity.
This is not product placement. The logo of the car is covered and in other cases obscured.
We have been seeing the watch that Gil Ro bought for his father. It’s been filmed when they went shopping, when Gil Ro was writing the card, when it was taken out of the safe, when it was put back in the safe, when it was… you know where this is going yeah? Basically it’s been in every episode since Gil Ro bought that watch for his dad. It is most likely a Mont Blanc timepiece. I always think writing instruments when I see Mont Blanc, probably because Papa Mushroom has owned a few pieces over the years. Through this drama I learnt that they make watches too. See? Product placement is working.
Another recurring product is this shiny, metallic can which top flips open when you step on the pedal. Ooooh, shiny… Lesson: Not all recurring products are embedded marketing. It just so happens that Gil Ro likes to throw stuff into the bin when he is angry. Ha!
NSS agents line up while getting disciplined in plain view in a location where they are supposed to be undercover. Really? Would you do that if you have a whole team of James Bonds? *Facepalm* And all agents dressed in every colour of the rainbow? Only superheroes wear colourful outfits. Spies are usually donned in black. Throw in a ski mask if you need to. Haven’t drama writers seen enough spy movies to learn that? Oh, I bet they have. The culprit is most probably product placement. If I were to take a guess it would be Mountia which has Joowon as its spokesmodel.
I went on a hunt to discover where this gorilla stuffed toy is from but cannot seem to find any leads. Sometimes these things are planted in the drama so that it can be sold to fans as drama merchandise. Remember the pig bunny craze resulting from You’re Beautiful (2009)?
Rant: OMG the romance in this drama is so cheesy! Can’t take it! Ugh!! A grown man making a snowman with a carved out heart and a candle inside, then she sees him, runs to him and falls down in an embrace. (But I have to say that’s one awesome snowman. I can’t make a proper snowman let alone one with a heart carved out of it). Still do not understand Gil Ro’s fixation with Seo Won.
Gil Ro buys breakfast for Seo Won from Mango Six. How convenient. She takes huge bites out of a cupcake/muffin then holds it out to Gil Ro asking him to try some. Mango Six sure has some transformation magic because the cupcake turns into a sandwich. It’s a miracle! Then he takes a sip from a cup containing scary looking blue liquid. Will he morph into Avatar or a Smurf or something? (BTW, I know it’s due to bad drama editing 😛 )
In this kdramaland, all spies discuss national security issues within earshot of everyday civilians at Mango Six. Who needs national news and media? All national security issues will be discussed at Mango Six!
Not sure if this is product placement but that suspicious looking box next to the thinly sliced beef is a little too visible to not be part of the game. They could have just had a coversation over kimchi and rice. Why be grilling beef out of a fancy box?
This one looks too yummy I don’t mind it. The story goes like this: Gil Ro delivers dinner to Seo Won at her apartment (breakfast and dinner? Gotta get a Gil Ro of my own) but he does not get invited into her place. He tells her that he will be leaving but instead sits at the garden near her apartment. Not too long after he calls her to ask if she has ginger and wasabi; she said no so he goes back to meet her with ginger and wasabi. Mission failed because yet again he’s not invited in. Third attempt. Again he waits at the garden and calls her to ask if she has any soy sauce. Same game so he goes back with a bottle of soy sauce…
I probably missed out on a lot of other product placements on the show. It’s just a fun game for me since there is so little substance in this drama. My alcohol-free form of a drinking game! Screen cap every time I see embedded marketing instead of chugging beer every time they curse or something… Teehehe!