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PPL: The good, the bad, and the ugly

As K-drama devotees, we are all familiar with the necessary evil/drama-funder known as “PPL,” or product placement. If you’re a non-Korean watcher, you might not realize that each drama actually leads with a disclaimer that it contains product placement. I take this as a kind of “watch at your own risk!” warning label. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself driving a Volvo, eating at Subway, jonesing after the latest Samsung smartphone, and buying expensive Dyson hair dryers.

How often do we pick up on PPL in dramas? I find I have a pretty disparate response. Sometimes I feel so used to regular product placement that it doesn’t phase me anymore — it just glides past me, maybe stuck in my subconscious, maybe flat-out ignored. For instance, 2016’s Descendants of the Sun was criticized for having excessive PPL, yet when I think back to the drama, no major PPL moments have stayed with me (okay, outside of Subway and the self-driving car).

In contrast, sometimes I’ll have a moment of extreme PPL naiveté. I’ll be watching a drama and have a, “Why is she vacuuming so much?” moment — and then a beat later: “Ohhh.” And in the rare case of more covert PPL, am I the only one that’s thought something might be PPL, and then have to prove it by watching the credits? When I was preparing for this article, one thing became certain: when you look for PPL, you will find it. It. Is. Everywhere.

Product placement is sometimes so powerful it can start a consumer revolution, like what happened in the wake of 2013’s You From Another Star. Thanks to a combination of sky-high popularity and megawatt stars Jeon Ji-hyun and Kim Soo-hyun, this drama single-handedly impacted consumer trends. To name just a few instances of the drama’s impact: a chi-maek craze across China, a major boost in Jimmy Choo’s sales, and a complete sell-out of several Iope lipsticks.

The commercial success of product placement aside, one of the most interesting aspects of PPL is the wide range of ways it’s deposited into a script, and handled by the actors. When does PPL succeed, when does it crash and burn, and what are the mechanisms that are commonly used to integrate it (or not) into a storyline? Let’s look at some recent and memorable PPL moments, and investigate.

As a disclaimer, I have little knowledge of the actual business of, or process by which, product advertisements get written into a primetime Korean drama script. From what I understand it’s a fairly complicated tangle of broadcasting regulations around brand names, corporate logos, sponsorship, and of course, money. So, instead of an analysis of the business of product placement advertising, this is more of an analysis of how PPL looks from a viewer’s perspective.

We’re all pretty resigned to the token coffee shop and smartphone PPL, which is (usually) so normalized in K-dramas that we barely notice it. Coffee Bay, Twosome Cafe, Mango Six, Holly’s Coffee, you name it — if there is a scene in the drama requiring a meeting between two characters in a neutral location, chances are it will be at the sponsoring coffee shop’s nearest location. Need to check your text messages, or take a selfie? Maybe you want to consult an app to find an apartment, plan a vacation, or perhaps book some airfare? We fully expect to see the latest Samsung smartphone, or a new app that’s gaining traction.

Likewise, if there’s a heroine, there will be a dressing table. If there’s a dressing table, it will be arrayed with the brand that actress is the spokesperson for. Need to up the ante? Have the heroine go for a makeover, or go shopping for a new lipstick to impress her crush, as in the adorable drama Weightlifting Fairy Kim Bok-ju.

In fact, in an entertainment medium where we’ve become pretty accustomed to PPL, what often draws more attention to a product is the black tape slapped on car insignias and the like, highlighting the fact that this product is not being advertised.

Some of the most aggressive PPL encountered in dramaland was during The Great Subway Invasion of 2016 (granted, Subway PPL wasn’t limited to 2016, but this was their blitzkrieg). It literally felt as if they single-handedly funded every drama produced that year, and the product placement reached a farcical level.

The Lonely Shining Goblin, Descendants of the Sun, Doctors, K2 — no drama was without a convenient date, picnic, or take-out order from this omnipresent sandwich place. Do we really believe that Subway is Song Hye-gyo’s choice for a light, healthful lunch? That Lee Sung-kyung regularly wolfs down heroes, or that this is where Ji Chang-wook goes on dates? Not even for a second. But beyond the far-fetched PPL, by far the saddest part of the Subway Invasion is that they seem to have been successful because of it.

Does more money pumped into advertising have to mean obvious, bang-you-over-the-head product placement? Why can’t it mean products that are craftily nestled into the story? With Subway as our prime example, it seems like the former situation is more often the case.

What is it that makes PPL jarring, distracting, and even distasteful for viewers? Although magnitude and repetition are often major components of PPL disasters, one of the worst crimes of PPL is that of being completely non sequitur, and trying to hide like the elephant in the room.

The recent drama Hundred Million Stars From The Sky had some pretty loud PPL moments, which stood out in a drama that was otherwise very carefully crafted. In one scene, star Jung So-min prepares some Maxim Gold coffee for her colleagues. The PPL alarm goes off when you realize the shot is lingering too long on such a tangential moment.

Then, a few episodes later, there’s a similar PPL incident at the workplace, this time with a nutritious granola bar. There was even some dialogue around this one, with Jung So-min telling her co-worker she wouldn’t be able to eat lunch if she had a second one, and then her co-worker suggesting they have two and skip lunch. In their defense, it was handled as well as it could have been, but then in a flash the ad is over, and it’s back to business.

If you have no say in dramatizing some completely non sequitur PPL in your drama, does having a sense of humor about it take the sting away? Park Bo-gum seems to think so. In several PPL moments for Coca Cola’s W Tea in Boyfriend, he’s randomly given a bottle of the fiber-rich digestive tea and we watched as he downs it, label conveniently turned to the camera. At least he’s cheeky about it.

We’ve run through some examples of pretty standard PPL, but there’s also some instances where PPL sinks to an incredible low and works against the very message of the drama. The recent My ID is Gangnam Beauty, despite being a lot of fun, suffered from this. The drama did its best to remind us that beauty is only skin deep, and its exploration of beauty standards and societal pressure was very strong in moments.

Then they’d chuck in some PPL and ruin everything they had built: the heroine (played by Im Soo-hyang) and her bestie (played by Min Do-hee) would drink some W Tea while saying how it helps them maintain their weight, how great it is when their fridge is full of it, and so on.

To make matters worse, the antagonist (played by Jo Woo-ri) is secretly battling bulimia and frequently shown taking diet pills when she’s upset or feels she has gained an ounce or two. The packaging is disturbingly cute, and we linger on them often enough and long enough to know they are PPL. Granted, she’s the baddie and maybe we shouldn’t be copying her behaviors, but in both cases the Gangnam PPL tells a story that directly conflicts with the drama’s message.

There’s PPL that interrupts, distracts, and takes away from the moral of the story. But is there PPL that’s actually embedded in a way that fits into the plot, or at least attempts to? Thankfully, yes.

My ID is Gangnam Beauty had a lot of unfortunate product placement, but it also had some fairly decent plot-driven PPL for Atelier Cologne. Our heroine dreams of becoming a perfumer and wears scents from Atelier. She’s both part of the company’s internship program and enjoys a mentee-mentor relationship with the company’s CEO. To our heroine, scent is unseen beauty — beauty that can’t be judged by its appearance, weight, V-line, S-line, or anything else. So, the Atelier Cologne PPL in this drama fits the theme well enough to receive a PPL hall pass.

Another instance of relatively adept PPL was found in 2017’s Tomorrow With You. In this drama, Lee Je-hoon is a time-traveling hero who regularly brings products from the future back to the present day — instant ramen that hasn’t been released yet, futuristic robot vacuums, you name it.

This habit eventually blows his cover (as it should, since this is a major time travel no-no), but not without some PPL first. For example, his wife (played by Shin Min-ah) is fascinated by the robot vacuum and treats it like a pet. And there you have it: endless opportunities for PPL, and a pretty good story-driven excuse to draw attention to these products.

Boyfriend, after several painful PPL moments, also had an instance of PPL that was integrated into the storyline — and it came with its own mini meta moment, too. Park Bo-gum goes shopping for his CEO, and what does he buy but a lovely Sulwhasoo lipstick. In case you don’t keep up with Amore Pacific brand family spokespersons (and I’m not sure why I do), Song Hye-gyo was the face of Laneige for years, until her marriage. Following her marriage, she started to represent top-tier brand Sulwhasoo and the Laneige line fell to Lee Sung-kyung. So, when Park Bo-gum gives her the Sulwhasoo lipstick and tells her she is prettier than the model… Well, I got a chuckle out of it, anyway.

While you can build up a PPL tolerance the same way you can become numb to the sirens of a fire station when you live nearby, there will always be those moments of PPL that are hard to ignore. Sometimes they even threaten to disrupt the pace and integrity of a drama.

Since PPL is here to stay, finding a way to make it a part of the entertainment seems the best coping mechanism. One way to do that is with meta and self-reference — from the lipstick moment mentioned above. A more satirical instance can be seen in a recent episode of the currently airing Memories of the Alhambra. They poked fun at PPL and corporate sponsorships when the corporation run by Hyun Bin’s character figured out a way to incentivize video game players to eat at Subway, and worked it into the gameplay.

Another way to cope with a PPL overdose is to turn the tables on it. Instead of looking at it as a way to sell products to hypnotized consumers, what if we looked at it as a mechanism for bringing stories to life? This is when I have the most fun with — and the greatest tolerance for PPL. For instance, I can’t be the only one who’s amused every time she sees a Hyundai Velostar on the road. It is, and always will be, the Lee Min-ho-mobile from City Hunter.

The idea of pulling drama products and trends into real life is where shows like You From Another Star succeeded on a grand scale with the Cheon Song-yi phenomenon. But there can be smaller instances too. I don’t think the bright pink Mamison rubber gloves that appear in every K-drama kitchen have ever been official PPL, but for me, they’re a way I can bring a smile to something as ordinary as washing my dishes.

This twist on PPL goes one step beyond the consumerism that product placement is all about. Instead, it’s about enjoying the spillover from a fictional world. You don’t have to splurge on a Dyson Supersonic hair dryer, don a thousand-dollar parka, or chug some W Tea to enjoy this PPL benefit. The world of the story is always there for the taking, and the smile it puts on your face doesn’t have a price tag.

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*wild applause* this is the article i didn't know i needed. i love it so much.

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Confession time: I bought that Iope lipstick after watching YWCFTS and that Laneige one coz Kim Bokjoo...

Although I dont like PPL most of the time, cant deny that they work.

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I honestly did not notice PPL was a thing until Because this is our First life and Jiho admits she's a writer who weaves in PPL into our stories... (i honestly thought it was mistakes in camera work/editing or something HHAHAHA). Ever since then, it's been so strikingly apparent that it makes me laugh out loud. PPL is a given I guess, cuz shows need their funding. But I do appreciate it if it's woven in-cleverly.
It's hilarious when writers seem to give up and don't even hide it anymore. (I always imagine a distressed jiho in the behind the scenes, down on her luck trying to weave in PPL lol).

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Haha... agreed with your last comment. Sometimes the PPL is just something that's so not in sync with the story that I can imagine the maknae writer groaning while trying to somehow fit those product into a very non-suitable plot.

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In my newbie drama watching I seriously thought phones were cheaper in Korea because poor characters had phones I couldn't dream of affording. Thought it was a Samsung thing, whoops!

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For me it was King of Drama and that orange juice which made me realize that writers might have to specifically change or add various scenes to incorporate PPL. At that time i thought it was OTT but now when I look skeptically at shows, I see them everywhere. Probably the whole scenario regarding CSH's birthday in Encounter was also makde to incorporate the Sulhwhasso PPL. I still think the worst PPL's were in DOTS, Goblin and K2. I mean they were all high budget dramas so it doesn't matter that you eat Subway in your dream, literally. Also I remember Misaeng being critised for PPL but as much I recall, that PPL was still smartly incorporated. "You are an intern, make some copies and coffee", atleast consistent with the shows concept.
But I have always wondered if PPL are this important to a show, how do sageuks work without them?

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I also learned about business of PPL from King of Dramas — those damn oranges😂. The bigger the budget, the more absurd the ppl gets. I remember reading somewhere that some writer managed to place Paris Baugette into a sageuk.

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Yes, there was a baguette sword in a sageuk.

Now, which drama was it? I'm sure I saw it somewhere on DB World.

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Mr. Sunshine?

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Yep.

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I think the most blatant and obvious PPL for Maxim was Shopaholic Louie. But in that case it was so obvious that it was actually funny. And the sad part is that I bought a 100 pack off of Amazon...

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So true! I watched Shopping King Louie just a couple of months ago. I was literally laughing out loud at Maxim being his fave coffee!

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I actually liked the way it was used in that drama, though. It worked pretty well for the story: Louis was rich and usually only drank expensive coffee but actually really liked the cheap Maxim coffee, which is why his butler had a harder time figuring out that the Louis he found online was the same person he knew.

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I should have looked on Amazon! I was so curious about how it tasted I went to an Asian supermarket but it being sold :( it's amazing the power of ppl!

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I was waiting for you to mention the DISGUSTING golden massage chair throne (INAR, BTIOFL at least. Wasn't it in AYHT?) but I suppose it was more of a 2017 thing.
It haunts me.

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Cracking up! I think I blocked that thing from my memory.

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Oh yeh, I've seen that darned massage 'throne' in LOTS of dramas, including Oh My Venus and Jugglers, if I recall correctly.

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What an amazing post @missvictrix! 😊😊 i have to say that I didn't even know what PPL was until dramabeans happened to me, and even now, most PPL just goes over my head - unless it's EXTREMELY obvious.

My all time favorite PPL is in Because This Life is Our First. Yoon Do Joon on a highway - screaming in frustration. Then the camera zooms out and he's on an...? 😂😂😂😂😂 That whole sequence was the writer-character trying to fit PPL into her drama, so it made perfect sense.

However, from your post I'm learning that even that car the character is driving, is PPL unless the logo is hidden. Whoa - it IS everywhere. I need to be more observant.

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Hyundai and Lexus must make a killing hehehehe

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The scene with DJ on a Segway was a parody on ppl AND and ppl itself. It was stupid funny though. That snail speed when he should be zipping down the highway on a motorcycle😂.

There’s been several of these ppl mockery written into the drama. Check out “King of Dramas” for one of the best explanation of ppl and how writers are forced to rewrite the stories to get executive approval for broadcasting.

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King of Dramas? Cool. I don't think I've even heard of this one.
A segway! Thanks I'd forgotten what they're called. PPL magic that was - so good I forgot the name of the product. 🤦

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(everything) "is PPL unless the logo is hidden" mhmm. it's even easier to spot if the storyline becomes boring & one starts paying attention to things outside the subtitles.

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Ooh so I should try watching something raw. ^^

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I was just thinking about PPL last night and how it's got to the point that every time I pick up on one (usually the ones with medium to high amounts of subtlety) in a drama I have a giggle to myself. It's actually enjoyable to me when I know it's there and what it is so I laugh at it. I'm not sure why, but there you go. I guess it's making it into entertainment for myself, like you said.

I then had the thought that PPL in Kdramas, or really anything, would make a fantastic drinking game.

MAXIM GOLD in Shopping King Louis has got to be an all time favourite PPL however. And ofc anything with a Melona bar, which accidentally-on-purpose had its own mini consumer revolution here on dramabeans. Hee.

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melona really need to appoint you to represent them for oversea market tbh
I aware of melona but never interested to find them until you talk about it

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Dayum straight they do hahahaha

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My first thought went to Maxim gold in SKL when thinking about PPL that is part of the plot, it even helped to solve the crime

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Man I need to rewatch that show haha.

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“MAXIM GOLD in Shopping King Louis has got to be an all time favourite PPL however. “

Best use of PPL ever. You actually believe the character really loves it, unlike most that just makes you think someone’s forced to read a line off cue-cards.

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Yeahp! Ziggy's Louis being madly in love with instant coffee not only fit his character but it one of my clearest memories of that show haha

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Even my bad drama amnesia remembers that!

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I still crave MG once in a while 😂

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If I drank coffee I would too haha

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Maxim gold was the first thing that came to my mind when I read the title!
That really was PPL done right. Made me search for it in soo many stores... still haven't found it :(

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You think that is bad? The PPL in Louis actually got me to buy a 100 pack from Amazon.

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Well then I guess it was a blessing in disguise!

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Maxim Gold also solved the crime in SKL, LOL.

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I haven't thought Maxim to be a PPL since I have seen it for so many years that it's just like a common commodity.

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I feel like Quiznos trying for Subway's throne this year
But unless you manage to feed a ghost, work harder quiznos~ lol

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Terius Behind Me lol

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Terius has ghost?
The things I miss when I skipped all the episodes straight to the final ones~
lol

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Terius had Quiznos. Lots of Quiznos.

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Make that (at least) 2 branches of Quiznos.

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The Chinese shows are blatant as well. In LOVE O2O, the entire JEEP truck line is featured even to the point of showing off the individual features of the cars (auto lift gates, lane departure, front collision avoidance). There was a 5-10 minute scene just of them driving. *rolling eyes* But not just PPL, but vacation destinations are hugely popular in Korea, so any foreign place that is featured in a drama, Koreans flock there...I may be speaking from experience here...heh.

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The PPL in Meteor Garden had us rolling to be honest. And when they blatantly broke the fourth wall and said the commercials were too long hahahaha

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I was groaning at all the PPL in Meteor Garden by the end. 😂

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The Shampoo one was... iconic hehehe.
But The Rabbit Watch Crew made it bearable hahahaha we'd all snark in the live chat whenever it came on screen. 😂😂😂

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Can't have a guard with such obvious dandruff on his shoulder. Totally unacceptable. Haha!

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I still dream of that lemonade believe you me....!!

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That weight loss ‘model’ drink in the Chinese remake of “She Was Pretty”, titled “Pretty Li Hui Zhen” made me eye roll 🙄 Dilreba DOES NOT need to lose weight

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remind me goblin has like half of the episode just for resort ppl.
and ghost detective cool cars scenes.
but I do want to visit quebec because of goblin too though... lol

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Goblin definitely made me want to visit Old Quebec and the Fairmont Chateau Frontenac hotel. What a beautiful location!

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And I actually did! But maybe you already knew that. 😉https://freethekimchi.wordpress.com/2017/10/26/our-goblin-anthony-bourdain-tour-of-quebec-canada/

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Oh god Chinese dramas are often way worse with PPL. It's even in some lower budget period dramas. Rookie Agent Rouge which takes place during the second Sino-Japanese War has them go to a coffee house that literally says on the sign opened in 1980 something. And of course they zoom in on the sign! There was something in Oh My General too where I believe it was some kind of drink or supplement or something I forget exactly (it was so bad I blocked it out of my memory), but they put it in an old looking bottle but I think they still say the product name and the line of dialogue about it comes completely out of nowhere.

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Oh yeah spot-on. The majority of Chinese dramas turn out long and draggy because most of it is one long commercial ad for a whole department store. Story telling gets neglected big time in favour of brands that aren't even affordable or interesting for the people watching.

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Hahaha!! I remember that scene! After a minute or two I just thought, "Skip!"

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It took me a few episodes to realize no one drank water in Mr. Right, my first modern-day C-drama. Even when characters were exercising in the gym, they always popped open drink cans.

Travel, yes! I work in public media and it's fascinating to see how popular dramas have exponentially increased travel to regions featured in shows like Wallander (the Skåne region of Sweden), Poldark (Cornwall) and Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle in Berkshire).

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I do an internal eye roll every time I see someone drink a bottle with the label perfectly facing the camera or whenever office workers make instant coffee and tell everyone how aromatic and delicious it is. Haha. Great article!

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Toreta is the worst culprit.

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I have so much fun reading this, @missvictrix.
Alhambra's latest Subway PPL is a very clever attempt at integrating this necessary evil into the story, plus poking fun at it. I also remember maxim gold coffee PPL from My Ajusshi which somehow able to elevate the scenes where the heroine tried to find a small moment for herself in such a sad, downtrodden life. I'm not sure if it was really a PPL, but I remember people joking about certain lipstick brand enjoying a sale increase after Ji-sung in Kill Me Heal Me wore it in his unforgettable Ahn Yo-na role.

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When I saw the episode with that Subway PPL in Alhambra, I was so impressed, because it feels like this method can work in real life. For me the coffee scenes in My Ajusshi was to highlight the impoverished state of Ji-an. She couldn't effort dinner so she drinks packs of stolen instant coffee to fill her stomach instead. Every time she drinks coffee I just feel extra sad for her.

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I didn't have much experience with PPL or noticing it until kdramas. I remember hearing something about one of the new Superman movies being criticised for excessive PPL but it made back so much of its budget thanks to it. The criticism was no doubt brushed away like floating lint.

I find PPL annoying, tbh. Repetitive PPL tears me out of the moment when I notice it. The most common being Subway. Maybe I'm alone in feeling this way too, but I find the Subway restaurants here in the UK to be so substandard and disgusting that the thought of these people in the dramas eating it like it's some kind of five star ambrosia is absurd to me.

The long lingering camera shots on things like beverages, makeup, snacks etc is so damn cheesy. And don't get me started on the mini car commercials for the latest vehicle model. It's become a parody. I do my best to ignore it but it really does get distracting for me.

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Actually the Subways in Korea - and most of Asia (cannot speak for China) are pretty good. The ones in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan have stuff you don't see on American or Euro Subways.

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I think it might be similar for all fast food chains in parts of Asia - the work ethic in countries like that probably lend to the food quality and service quality being much higher. Here in the UK, pretty much every fast food chain serves something that looks like a zombie version of the pictures on the menus.

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An article on PPL (smacks self in forehead) of course! Why didn't I think of that! In other words, thanks for the article.
Subway's ppl are so annoying it makes me never want to buy a Subway sandwich. The worst one was a few years ago with Big Man (Kang ji hwan) when the 2nd half of the drama the chaebol's daughter was relegated to the role of showing off Subway by having to get a job there. She had no other purpose in life (drama life, that is). She actually was a great character in the first half, so much so I wanted her to end up with the lead, but I guess tptb decided she was too good so relegated her to ppl.
The best one I saw was in Because This is My First Life. Her job was actually to write ppl in dramas.
Most of the things you mention I didn't even realize were ppl because I guess ppl in kdramas for meant for Korean watchers. I did wonder about toilet tissue as ppl in The Time I Loved You since they were given as presents to somebody or other.
I guess we could go on and on...

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omg I enjoyed the whole over the top PPL writing in Because this life is the first! That was well done PPL-ception

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I counted. Park Bo Gum chugged down that drink 3 times before episode 7.
I wish these people learn how to use subtlety already. But I can't deny that I end up craving Subway from time to time.

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But you have to ask yourself which would you rather see: PPL or commercial breaks that last for 10 minutes or more? Personally, I'd rather have PPL, with the exception of Subway.

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Chicago Typewriter was the only drama to effectively incorporate Subway PPL.

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For once it made sense for that character to be eating at subway instead of a proper sit down restaurant!

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I was just about to mention Chicago Typewriter and subway. I watched the finale with a sub and said well done.

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I remembered being so impressed with the way they incorporate the PPL but could not remember why.

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@linda-palapala this is why I find PPL funny rather than annoying. I'm so done with our local shows airing 5 minutes of commercials in between 3 minutes of the actual show.

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I'm with you there mary. Can't stand normal commercials (I don't have a TV and I have adblock on my browser) but PPL is amusement for me.

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I'm done with local tv anyway and commercial time didn't help. I don't mind commercials on YouTube when they're either only 5 seconds or you can skip after a few seconds. I remember when shows first started ppl in the U.S. and people were enraged. But I thought it beat having some non-existent fake name for a product.

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True. Having ppl seems more relatable and realistic than using things that wrapped in weird boxes in a make believe brand, or in a fancy container. Like, unless you are a room decor youtuber, nobody poured a liquid shampoo into a new fancy container out of its original bottle.

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I cannot watch live television with commercials anymore. It is torture. So I would much rather have PPL working as a plot device than interrupting the flow of the story.

Subway feeds ghosts, inspires writers, and serves as a gift from a goblin, and this is much preferred over a 30 second commercial break. Besides, it's more fun to make fun of PPL than whine about commercials.

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I guess actually what I have most against Subway (or any U.S. fast food ppl) is that I love watching them eating Korean food. I feel like I might as well be in the U.S. if they're gonna eat KFC, pizza or Subway.

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Oh, same. The greatest PPL of them all is Korean food. I now always have kimchi in my refrigerator, have taken to making pickled radish every week, eat bibimbap more frequently than I probably should, and am slowly making my way through the menu at the nearest Korean restaurant.

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It ain't that far off here in America. At all.

But..... I have been feeling those vacumns I have been seeing lately. I recently seen them in Fluttering Alert and tonight's episode of The Last Empress.

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There is a ton of PPL in American shows. On Jane The Virgin, in the first season, it was very apparent that Target was one of the major sponsors because they had entire scenes where the entire cast shopped there and other scenes where Target shopping bags were everywhere. The Mindy Project and Black-ish constantly plugged the Microsoft Surface. And Stranger Things plugs Ego Waffles.

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And all the Apple and Dell laptops.

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Feeling so naive about the vacuums. Hasn't everyone been vacuuming lately? But it never occurred to me that it was PPL.

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Notice how the Dyson name is always prominent in the shows?

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Do it is Dyson. I was not sure and didn't want to get into that headspace.

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I clearly remember the time PPL worked on me though I no longer recall the drama. It was Papa John's. One character's mother worked there and the pizzas had a prominent supporting role. I just had to have pizza after that, and not just any pizza but Papa John's.

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Suspicious Partner

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Name That Drama: PPL edition :D

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Papa Johns: Remember (?) or was it City Hunter or Healer?

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Healer Was Coffeebay

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make it harder mary
name that drama: subway ppl edition

lmao

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This needs to be a section :-)))

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Papa John's only reminds me of JunHo😍 Any PPL works for me if it includes JunHo 😍

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Ugh, but if you looked at it, it didn't really look like pizza! I have never seen a real-looking pizza in a kdrama.

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One of the really jarring PPLs for me is Samsung. Who doesn't change the default wallpaper of the phones? And the caller tones? I have owned many a Samsung and one of the first things I do after buying one is to change the default tones. But in drama land they seem to like the generic ones a lot.

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I often don't change my caller tone cos it's a hassle hahaha
And I had a default wallpaper for half of last year lol. I don't have either now but I have been known to do that... pfft. *hides*

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Same. It's only within the last 6 no the that I changed my wallpaper and lock screen. My phone is ALWAYS on silent so I have no reason to change the ringtones

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Yeahp!! Me too. Phone is always on silent, not even vibrate except for alarms. I did make a custom ringtone but it's not much use lol

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It's funny because pre-smartphone era, when you only had a few 8-bit wallpaper choices and ringtones to choose from, I'd painstakingly mix and match things. Now that there are dozens of options pre-loaded into phones and thousands more readily available online, choosing makes my brain hurt so I stay with the default for years XD

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Right? Hahaha Too many options is sometimes a bad thing. I have a wallpaper I made myself and it will probably be the only wallpaper I have till I get a new phone pfft.

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the caller tones probably to avoid paying the royalties
but wallpaper, I agreed
I mean, why settle for basic default when I can use KJW beautiful face~ XD

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Seriously, guys? Am I the only one who doesn't want to check my phone every time I hear the generic tone?! Haha, this is a revelation!

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The PPL for Samsung works for me!! I've only had Samsung phones ever since, and until now, I am so envious that no matter what the character's job is (except maybe for Ji-An in My Ajusshi), their phone is always Samsung, whatever their latest model is. It makes me think of buying a new phone... (lol I can't though due to budgetary concerns)

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I'll add that I get upset when the character has the latest phone before it's released. Like, how do they have that already?!!! Even though I have already pre-ordered it. lol, I'm a Samsung junkie.

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I love Samsung phones! I used to hate it because my phone before often buttdials people. But thankfully Samsung managed to rectify that in their newer models. Their phones arr so sleek and modern. The camera's a bit on the lower side tho.

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I change the ringtones, don't bother with the wallpaper. All my regular calling relatives have their own k-pop ringtone. :P

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I have the same pink rubber gloves!
Also the Toreta water bottle thing. Seen that in way too many dramas. Along with some other drinks too. Fresh juice bottles too.

I like it when PPL is done in a subtle way. In some ways I don't like it when the description of the products gets dialogue that isn't naturally woven into the drama. Like MoA with the game happening in a subway and having a dialogue about it is alright, but when a character suddenly starts talking about how a granola bar is so filling, it can be a bit much.

People just using makeup (while say talking to either themselves as in dramas or other characters) = good. People describing the makeup to other characters ('this makes my skin look good etc) = screams CF to me.

On the other hand sometimes I wish the PPL were true. E.g. Mama fairy. I wish there was a Babeans coffee with her special menu! I could seriously use some Dark Waters these days.

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Ooooo! I just did some digging and apparently Babeans has a drink that corresponds to each of the Fairy Babeans coffee.
You can find it on the Babeans website as a special rolling banner!
Here is the transcription:
Deer's tears: Cream caramel
Sparrow's breakfast: Einspanner
Princess please don't: Dark Cherry Chocolate
Moonlight Elegance: Penut butter latte
Dark Waters: Long black

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*peanut

through of course these won't have the fairy's special way of making them haha

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I enjoy PPL only when it's done with humor, preferably self deprecating(often unintentional of course) and worked into the script. Recent Subway PPL in Memories of The Alhambra is an excellent example.

Sometimes, a PPL backfires so dramatically that I suspect the writer forced to incorporate a PPL took his/her revenge. Does anyone remember "King Of Dramas" where budding writer had to force orange juice PPL into the script? I can imagine it happening in real life drama production.

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That's the drama I was trying to remember! The orange juice PPL was epic. :D

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I’ve been trying to find that scene in English subs to share here. No luck yet

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Please tag me if you do!

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Thanks for this great post !

For me, I have grown tired of Subway PPL. The last one in MoA was a actually funny and clever... But the more I see it, the less I'm now wanting to have one.

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My favorite is the fourth type of PPL (after good, bad, ugly). The kind that's so ugly, it circles back around to being good/hilarious.

The Ghost Detective had this car PPL that at first seemed tame. A chaebol client rewarded the lead guy (Da-il) with a car for solving the first case.

Then it became convenient. They gave his other teammate his own car so he won't complain about using Da-il's car.

Then it became weird. The team was driving towards a new case when the chaebol's lawyer stopped them on the road and gave them another car. To support their cause or something.

Then it became WTF. Two characters were leaving their hideout to catch the killer in another location. One of them stops and says, "We better drive separately because it's safer." Cue convoy of PPL cars in different colors (another squad member tailed them with his own PPL car).

And that's just the car. The Samsung PPL excuses in that show were equally WTFunny. :D

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I agree on the ridiculous caravans in The Ghost Detective as being the worst. Other dishonorable mentions: 1) Subway in Wok of Love. If you are a world class chef, wouldn't you rather make you own dinner than go to Subway? Especially if you are trying to impress the female lead? 2) I found this example of the oddest way to promote your brand: Coffee Bay. In Pretty Noona, Jinah's company was written as a sexist, discriminatory work place.

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That was so weird in Pretty Noona, why let your company be portrayed in such an unflattering light?

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I hate Subway the most because they appear in every single dramas I have been watching, and some of them are so badly incorporated it makes me cringe as it damages the theme/flow of that drama. But what Memories of the Alhambra did with it was absolutely ingenius and creative; same with the Breitling watch PPL.

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The thing about kdrama PPL that I don't understand is the "non" PPL,
like the Mercedes and Audis with the black tape covering (while in the shape of) the logos, or the tshirts bearing big international brands with half the word taped out ([TAPE]IDAS, for example). They can't change to a brand that will pay for inclusion? And you read about dramas being fined for "excessive PPL". With such blatant PPL as we witness constantly, what gets them fined?

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Many dramas can’t get that caliber of sponsorship from high end brands. And they can’t just advertise for free, so the brand is covered. In many dramas or variety shows, the actors have stylists who purvey anything suitable to the actor/character. Fashion brands mostly just give the clothes out to get publicity. But that doesn’t mean the brand paid for the advertisement to the network. So the network will cover the brand logos.

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Thank you !

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Which is just ridiculous. Like we don't know or can't figure out what it is if we want it bad enough. I've seen people dig through social media to find out where, when and with who someone did something. How did you find that out? "Oh, girl...from his cousin's sister's boyfriend's best friend. They all went to dinner and a light festival together."

Moral of that anecdote: Stop tagging people in your social media post or make your page private. lol.

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So true about ferreting out any info we really want to know . . .witness how we know all the details of every overcoat worn by every male star!

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I think it has gotten a bit better lately, but for a long time in some European shows EVERYTHING that had a brand name was blurred out. You would see people driving down a street and half the stores were blurred out. Have seen that in Japanese dramas also, but not near to that extent.

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The first time I really noticed PPL was in King 2 Hearts. Lee Seung Gi’s royal prince/king character’s favorite food was ... Dunkin Donuts. In one scene where he was trying to woo Ha Ji Won’s character, he presents her with a heart-shaped donut. Then I think Korean viewers complained, and they changed his favorite food to something else. That was just too blatant.

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HA that now reminds me (because of baked goods?) of my favorite PPL in Reply 1994, when Yoo Yoon Seok's character is telling Go Ara about a new bakery that is named for a dinosaur, a Touslesjaurus which was of course Tous les Jours.

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Aww! I don't remember it but it's typical Chilbongie.

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My all-time favourite PPL was the ginseng extract in Chief Kim. It still makes me laugh 😂 He just waltzes in with the box and then kisses Junho and steals the box back.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YKlOYh-UJjk

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Terius Behind Me was the one I thought of as soon as I read the post. The level of PPL in that was INSANE. But the show's determination to sell me everything from handbags to cars to children's toys, BB cream, coffee drinks and Quiznos only added to the show's sense of fun in the end.
It was so gleefully done, as though the writers didn't even care how it looked.

In a lot of other places though it does matter. My Ahjussi was perfect from beginning to end - apart from one random, bizarre scene where the brothers went shopping for sunglasses and cars they couldn't afford. And yet their coffee PPL was perfectly incorporated.

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Yes to the coffee PPL! They even had a great explanation as to how Ji-an could afford to down 2 sachets a day. Lol

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That coffee PPL in My Ajusshi worked so well for me that it even made me think of buying it just to check if I could survive with that drink and not much meals.

Unfortunately (or not?) maxim gold is not available in my country, as far as I know.

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Fortunately, there are Korean stores all over the city where I could have my coffee PPL fix. Unfortunately, I find one sachet of Maxim too weak lol, so I understand why Ji-an needed 2 sachets for a cup. Haha 😂

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Oooh. is the taste on the sweet side?

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@waterhyacinth Hmm, a bit bland to be honest. Good for a tiny cup I guess (the ones we see in office coffee scenes in dramas)? While I like my coffee in a big mug that's a little stronger and creamier ☕

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A single Maxim packet is good for a teacup size, for a real coffee cup you need two.

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I wonder where the PPLs play role in historical dramas. They need to be funded too, right? Could somebody please enlighten me? Thanks in advance.

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Eagle drones?

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I would like to see one if there's any. Lol.

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Is that why we're seeing fewer historical dramas?

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Good question!

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Maybe, but still I wonder where they get their returns of investment from (aside from the TV station who bought the broadcast right)?

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Mr. Sunshine had PPL for Dal.komm Coffee, Paris Baguette, Orgel House, Bonicrew, Odense, and Lovcat.

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I dont watch Mr. Sunshine but really? It has so many PPL from modern day's products? I'll check it later just for the sake of seeing the PPL.

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One of the most effective in convincing me to buy a product was Misaeng. I looked out for Maxim coffee around the time that it aired, shared it with colleagues, and prepared it Jang Geu Rae style. 😅

You From Another Star introduced me to IOPE. And to the other products that Jeon Ji Hyun were endorsing. I bought a Samsung phone and almost bought a Samsung refrigerator just because of her. 🤷‍♀️

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i actually don't mind watching park bo gum chugging down a bottle of w tea... i get shivers looking at hos throat go up and down... okay creepy.

but i do have this intense need to buy a dyson vacuum but cant afford it.

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I understand you... Dyson vacuum is my secret desire 😅

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From the top of my head, moments of in-your-face PPL that caught my attention were:
- YFAS, which worked because of the setup of the drama and the Hallyu star character that is Chun Song Yi
- All the TheFaceShop PPL because Suzy is/was a brand model
- every time the main male lead goes to buy jewelry for a girl
- phone key chains/ charms in dramas of the early-2000s
- the moon-inside-the-starring necklace that Gu Joon Pyo gifted Geum Jan Di In BOF
- all the Leniege products LSK used in WLFKBJ
- all the cars used in dramas
- Quiznos and Terius (one of the supporting characters becomes an owner of a Quiznos ohdeargod)
- most OTP memorabilia (the one that comes to mind is the giant pig doll from Kim Sam Soon and Pig-rabbit from You’re Beautiful)
- the mall that Master’s Sun was filmed at

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My Robot Vacuum PPL awards of the Kdrama year of 2018 goes to Nam Shin III's Chingu from Are You Human Too (http://www.dramabeans.com/2018/06/are-you-human-too-episodes-5-6/), Yoo Seung-ho's non-human friend he throws birthday parties for in I'm Not a Robot (http://www.dramabeans.com/2017/12/im-not-a-robot-episodes-1-2/) and finally the all important Geum-Ja in Clean with Passion for now (http://www.dramabeans.com/2018/11/clean-with-passion-for-now-episode-1/)

I am one of those people who arrogantly thinks advertisement doesn't work on them but I still find myself drooling over every Dyson product be it vacuums or hair dryers, love the shade of Boyfriend's gift lipstick but what I find interesting is the new technology kdramas introduce me to.

In Mama Fairy and the Woodcutter I did think the boys were using the fridge as a closet until it was explained in the story that it was a "closet that steams clothes" (http://www.dramabeans.com/2018/11/mama-fairy-and-the-woodcutter-episode-4/). I didn't know of the existence of such a thing. I saw the same closet in Clean with Passion for Now in passing and only recognized it because of the former drama but thought very fitting with the hero being a germaphobe.

So when it's well done PPL not only pays for the stories we enjoy but can also be informative or amusing, but can take viewer out of the story if it's carelessly handled (Subway I'm looking at you!)

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PS. One of the overt ones that stayed with me is the laundry scene in I Hear Your Voice.

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I too thought the closet was a fridge. Heck, even Lollipip seemed to have thought the same thing!

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I secretly appreciate PPL because it's a running inside joke that Korean drama watchers can share. I always play the game of Spot the PPL with myself and keep a mental list of all the products I notice and then check to see how close I was. But PPL has become so blatant these days that the game has lost some of its charm.

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I will always have a soft spot for Lee Ji-an's coffee PPL in My Ahjussi. Being a natural coffee lover doesn't help, and I swear my coffee serving doubled during the show's run!

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Asiana Airline in Yes Captain.
You definitely need an airlines if you want to make a pilot or flight attendant drama :D
Honestly I'm not familiar with the airlines in there when watching the drama, not until I search and it exist! The plane and the uniform are the same!

And as for medical drama, I'm not sure if all hospitals in the dramas are really exist.

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Oh I just remember that Lock n Lock PPL in Hwayugi when Son Oh-gong tells Sam-jang that she can make a call using that Lock n Lock bottle :D
I do love that PPL!

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Good question on the hospitals. I wonder if they just CGI the name change on some.

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Besides the consumable products, even books and toys are “placed”. I will always remember that book from Goblin and Because This Is My first Life being marketed like crazy on yes24 and brick&mortar bookstores. And tvn must have some deal with a toy maker that has been designing a plush or keychain for almost all tvN production since “Cheese In A Trap”, or earlier.

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Books - especially kids books - seem to be one of the most stealth campaigns ever. I am betting that 99% are PPL.

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Not sure it was PPL, but in a couple of dramas the characters that got into fistfights used a kind of band-aid that prevented scarring on the face. I don't even know the brand, but the first time I visited KKorea I got excited to find it in a drugstore. Not ashamed to say I still have quite a stock in my medicine kit. Haven't had the chance to try it as I haven't yet figured in a fistfight. :)

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Haven't had the chance to try it as I haven't yet figured in a fistfight.

What if it was a PPL for fistfighting? :D

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Then Tintel is a failure either way? 🙁

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Haha! Then I suppose they failed to sell the main product and sold the accessory instead. Not that I'm complaining. :)

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Great article, @missvictrix ! as a decade-reader of DB, I would say that the fun side-story/view-of-kdramaworld that JB and GF wrote all those years have always been my favourites, aside from recaps :D
Now that they both have to be in 'the real world' (HA) I felt happy that DB continued to stream such articles :)
To everyone in Dramabeans, have a great new year!

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Terius was the worst PPL sinner for me in the most recent dramas, the product placement was glaringly obvious, and it was everywhere and all the time. It was almost hilarious in it's lack of subtlety, but mostly it was annoying in an otherwise fun and sweet drama.

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I don't mind PPL at all. Subway or Samsung or anything else, they are just an inherent part of kdramas for me. The only times I go mehh are when characters stop the flow of the story to show and count and praise the functions of a PPL. Other than that I don't care.

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Me too. I would rather have PPL than commercials

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I would want to say the PPLs have zero impact on my purchases, but sometimes I really wanna get those plushies! Like in Oh My Venus, Hwayugi, & especially the ones in Goblin! They are so CUTE!

I have always love Subway cookies, even before they overtake the PPL scene. But the sandwiches not so much, coz they are expensive & not filling enough for me, lol.

Oh, *whispers* but I have a Dyson vacuum at home. *runs away*

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