[PPL Round-up] Just like in the royal palace
I’ve been sleuthing K-drama product placement (PPL) and writing about it for a while now, but it’s funny — all it takes is one drama to totally change the way we look at it. And how much attention we pay to it.
While we’ve seen our standard PPL happening over the last few months in dramaland, with its usual highs, lows, and coffees, The King: Eternal Monarch turned what was once a blip of product placement across our screens into a saga of rolling in-drama advertisement. They’ve gotten their proverbial wrist slapped and they’ve interfered with their own storytelling — but I think the biggest and most lasting effect is this: everyone knows PPL now, and they know it all too well.
Gone are the moments when you were briefly confused by the close-up on a bottle of facial toner, or by seeing all your characters enthusiastically drinking the same soft drink. In the past you would notice it (or maybe even not notice it), and then brush it off. But now? Now, in our post-King world, PPL is in the forefront of our drama-watching minds.
The product placement landscape might have changed drastically in terms of frequency, saturation, and blatantly scripted moments, but there’s also a lot that’s remained the same. That being said, let’s take a look at some of the product placement we’ve seen in dramaland the last few months, King or no King.
It’s that part of the show where we vacuum
Product: Dyson stick vacuums
Desirability: Full-on drool
There’s a war in my PPL heart. Does the product placement crown belong to coffee or vacuuming? I don’t think this battle will ever be won, but these are my two favorite types of PPL to encounter.
Lately, we’ve had a serious vacuuming sesh in A Couple’s World. Welcome respite from the wild drama, and actually a pretty authentic moment of housekeeping (for a change), I could probably watch Kim Hee-ae vacuum all day. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I could actually use more Dyson PPL. Something feels off when I’m watching a drama without a vacuuming scene.
Self-care through electronics
Product: Massage chairs and LED face masks
Desirability: Too scary, I’ll pass
Self-care, skincare, stress alleviation… these are all important parts of life, but did you know each comes with a unique PPL opportunity? In Will You Have Dinner With Me, our hero took a brief moment of relaxation in his office massage chair. Not that Song Seung-heon doesn’t make it look like a delicious experience, but the total saturation of these pricey (and huge!) chairs in dramaland always makes me wonder how many people actually think this is a worthy purchase.
Not to be outdone by massage chairs, The King: Eternal Monarch sure went for gold while promoting (in and out of the drama) the Cellreturn LED face mask model known as “Platinum.” It looks (and sounds) like a superhero mask — or, if you’re an Alexander Dumas fan, it’s also a bit reminiscent of The Man in the Iron Mask.
We got more than we ever wanted to see and hear about this LED mask in our drama, and while I’m actually quite curious about light therapy for skincare, I’m not about to buy this thing. Even if Lee Min-ho looks good with it on.
Instant coffee just got hip
Product: Maxim’s Single Origin coffee
Desirability: Willing to try all the coffee
We are all familiar with Maxim, its instant coffee brands, and the wonderful ways in which our drama characters prepare them, serve them, and savor them. So, it was pretty exciting to see the next gen version of this in When My Love Blooms. Now we know there’s a fancy version of our mix coffee, and it’s Maxim’s Single Origin — which looks like single-serving packets of coffee goodness, with a beautiful range of roasts kindly displayed for us over the course of the drama. Drink it while fishing, drink it while working, drink it while meeting up with your arch nemesis. It’s all good.
But wait, there’s more! I like coffee, so I guess I play extra special attention to our coffee PPL. Nepresso has been banging on dramaland’s door for a while now, and most recently we saw this put to good use in A Couple’s World. Here, the volatile, stress-ridden home of Kim Hee-ae was punctuated by some lost-in-thought coffee brewing, and the occasional rageful coffee drinking.
Outside of the usual Maxim and new-usual Nepresso, though, we also had a new coffee chain, Selecto Coffee, featured in My Unfamiliar Family. Coffee chains are Important Stuff in dramaland, because our characters need places to get stuff done — and they make a great set, too.
I’m not being sarcastic when I say that I love seeing the latest coffee chains in dramas, and the level of promotion within the chain is also interesting to explore. For instance, Selecto had a pretty strong presence in My Unfamiliar Family (complete with an ordering scene). It would seem like a lot, but then we have a coffee and bakery chain like Paris Baguette in The King: Eternal Monarch to compare it to (not pictured because you’ve seen it enough already). You know that their coffee tastes just like the coffee at the royal palace, right? Just checking.
I usually like to point out particularly well-integrated PPL in these round-ups. You know, that clever PPL that sneaks in, winks at you, and actually works in the drama? Yeah, it’s rare. We saw more of the opposite this time around, but I did like the PPL apartment makeover we saw in When My Love Blooms.
Scandalized by the outdated equipment, appliances, and crappy vacuum situation, Yoo Ji-tae quickly outfitted his love’s apartment with the latest and the greatest of everything. Even some jewelry from Tiffany & Co was included. It was actually a decent way to do a full-on PPL blast.
One more mention, though, has to go out to A Piece of Your Mind. This drama (outside of being wonderful), was pretty low key with its PPL, except for one particular scene that stood out like the sorest of thumbs.
Jung Hae-in is playing the keyboard for our heroine, Chae Soo-bin, but he conveniently has a soft drink at his feet so when we watch him playing… we also have a convenient close-up of our drink. Which he drinks, lusciously, after playing his masterpiece.
Special bonus: Kimchi slap
What better way to end this round-up than with some kimchi product placement? We don’t get this enough, in my opinion. But then The King: Eternal Monarch had to kill the kimchi with one of their now-infamous “rolling” PPL moments. These rolling PPLs (my term, by the way) consist of multiple product placements in quick succession within the same scene. Case in point: the stake-out scene where Kim Go-eun and her partner PPL’d their way through a pre-packaged kimchi snack, then a stick moisturizer demo — all within a few minutes, and from the front seat of their car.
As you can imagine, PPL blasts like this not only overwhelm the viewer (and the story!), but take away from the point, which is noticing the product, right? Well, we noticed it all right, but it doesn’t need to feel like brainwashing. After all, PPL at its best is fun and playful — and oblique. And PPL at its worst… you know what? It kind of feels like a kimchi slap.
- My Unfamiliar Family: Episode 1
- Will You Have Dinner With Me: Episodes 1-2
- The King: Eternal Monarch: Episode 1
- When My Love Blooms: Episodes 1-2 (Review)
- A Couple’s World: Episodes 1-2 Open Thread
- A Piece of Your Mind: Episodes 1-2 Open Thread
- Premiere Watch: 365: Repeat the Year, A Piece of Your Mind, Welcome, A Couple’s World, Unique Chef Moon, Rugal