[PPL Round-up] Exercising the right to vacuum
We had so much fun with our previous feature on PPL last year, we decided to make it a regular thing! On a quarterly basis, we’ll review the PPL that stood out to us, and share some thoughts on how well it was (or wasn’t) embedded in the drama. In this PPL Round-up, we’ve got everything from emperors who vacuum, to women who crush on Subway cashiers.
Exercising the right to vacuum
Product: Dyson vacuums
Desirability: Pretty strong, actually
If there’s one bit of PPL that stood out in show after show, it was the Dyson vacuum. Clearly, it is essential for everyone from emperors to editors to not only own, but regularly operate, a Dyson vacuum. And there’s nothing lackluster about this vacuuming experience, either. It’s performed with zeal and passion every time.
In An Empress’s Dignity, Empress Sunny (Jang Nara), was once stripped of all the benefits of living in the Imperial Palace. She was forced to do her own laundry and hang it to dry in her chamber, cook her own ramen on a hot plate, and, of course, vacuum herself. This was actually a pretty decent way to incorporate a full-fledged vacuuming session in the drama in a way that fit the story.
Later in the drama, when the emperor (Shin Sung-rok) is busy trying to win back the heart of the Empress, he actually does her cleaning for her, granting the Dyson an encore appearance in the drama.
Turns out cleaning scenes can be pretty well-embedded into a drama. In Romance is a Bonus Book, cohabitant cuties played by Lee Jong-seok and Lee Na-young designated a weekend for some spring cleaning. The heroine might have bolted, but don’t worry — we get to enjoy Lee Jong-seok cleaning. And vacuuming, for quite an extended scene. The male second lead/book designer (Wie Ha-joon) also does some important vacuuming in his apartment, much to his dog’s dismay. I’m beginning to see a theme here. Forget about the wrist grabs — give us a man who vacuums, and we’re sold. And so is the vacuum.
Coffee is crucial
Product: Maxim Gold instant coffee; W Tea
Desirability: Not gonna lie, I want to try the tea
In the universe of PPL, much of it is of the drinkable variety. Instant coffee (particularly by Maxim) has been advertised for a long while, but every now and then with renewed vigor.
One of my favorite examples of this comes from the campiness that was An Empress’s Dignity. First we had the now-famous taste test scene, where the emperor sits in his epic chair at his epic desk and swigs back some Maxim Gold to see what all the fuss is about. This scene was brilliant, from the straight shot on Shin Sung-rok, to his fantastic theatricality. In fact, he found it hilarious himself (IRL), and he even posted about it on his personal Instagram feed saying, “Instant coffee, I love you.”
Perhaps because that scene became iconic in the drama, the instant coffee PPL makes an appearance several more times. The most ridiculous of these is when the emperor wakes up after plunging himself off a cliff and the first words he utters as he jerks back to consciousness, surrounded by thugs? “Do you have any instant coffee?”
Coffee is crucial in dramaland and in PPL (in real life too, let’s face it), but healthful non-caffeinated drinks also have an important role. We saw Coca Cola’s W Tea in gobs of dramas last year, and when it started appearing again more recently, I kind of felt like I was greeting an old friend. “W Tea!” I shouted when Yoo Inna chugged some in Reach of Sincerity. Or, tried to chug it. It helps when you take the cap off. This cute moment not only effectively drew attention to the product, but built up the playfulness between the leads, so I’d call that a PPL win.
Subway returns in full force, dramaland weeps collectively
Product: Anything they sell with a label on it
The dreaded Subway returns. I feel like I jinxed it back in December when I expressed that the Subway Invasion had somewhat subsided. Alas, I was wrong.
While it felt like Subway was everywhere again in the worst way possible, I came across one instance in Reach of Sincerity where I thought it was done fabulously. Lawyer Dan (Park Kyung-hye) is famous for falling in love with a new specimen every few days. When she’s crushing on one of the workers at her local Subway, she gussies up and goes in to order her sandwich. Not only is she humiliated by him saying she looks like his grandmother, but Lawyer Choi (Shim Hyung-tak) is smirking in the corner, enjoying her embarrassment more than he is his sandwich.
And for the unfabulous use of Subway and their food fare, I’m thinking of dramas like Romance is a Bonus Book, which represented the banal and forced placement that we have all come to dread. Our characters are working late and are hungry, or they need to go on a happy lunch date, or anything in between. Next thing you know, they are entering their local Subway. And we get the widest shot in the entire drama at this moment, because even if we can’t tell that’s our characters because they’re so tiny — hey, at least we can tell they are walking into a bright and shiny Subway.
Just when you thought it was safe, the Transformer-esque massage chair made its reappearance in dramaland. An Empress’s Dignity (this drama really had some great PPL) had a humorous way of incorporating it into the plot. Princess So-jin (Lee Hee-jin) frequently shoved people into it when they visited her chamber, so they could a) relax and talk about how wonderful it was at massage, and b) get some important dialogue accomplished as well.
And because it wouldn’t be a feature on PPL without some mention of makeup or skincare products, my favorite of these was when someone at Gyeoroo Publishing, in Romance is a Bonus Book, was given a huge gift box of Sum:37 products. Lee Jong-seok is the spokesperson for this LG-owned cosmetics line, but in the drama all of the editors were able to sample it together, gushing about how moisturizing the products were.
Most of the PPL I encountered and discussed here I actually really enjoyed (outside of the green menace, that is) — and I couldn’t always say that about PPL. However, ever since I started paying more attention to these product placement moments, and the varying level of skill with which they get sandwiched into dramas, the more I enjoyed them.
The above instances don’t represent every drama, or every instance of PPL, but these were some of the moments that stood out to me over the last several weeks of drama watching. What were some of yours?
- An Empress’s Dignity: an unexpected journey into makjang
- Reach of Sincerity: Episode 1
- Romance Is a Bonus Book: Episode 1
- Take two for Lee Dong-wook in tvN’s Reach of Sincerity
- More stills for Lee Jong-seok, Lee Na-young tvN rom-com Romance Is a Bonus Book
- An Empress’s Dignity: Episodes 1-2
- Lee Jong-seok, Lee Na-young up for tvN noona romance