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Product placement in Korean drama
Trend Forecaster

Product placement in Korean drama

Tuesday, 19 February 2019
By Laurent Francois
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Laurent Francois
Editor, RE-UP

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3 min read

Product placements are a well-oiled marketing technique, but it can take more to convince today’s sophisticated audiences than a celebrity wearing a beautiful watch. Breitling is paving the way with the Korean drama, “Memories of the Alhambra”.

Korean drama (K-drama) is experiencing a surge in popularity beyond the confines of Asia. These TV series usually run for one season of between 16 and 20 hour-long episodes, broadcast twice weekly. Episodes are subtitled almost immediately after they’re shown by fans around the world and streamed on platforms such as myasianTV.

30 million luxury-compatible fans on Facebook

As a cultural genre with growing worldwide influence, luxury brands are tapping into K-drama to boost their appeal among young audiences worldwide. However, age isn’t the only factor that attracts high-end brands. According to Facebook Audience, K-drama viewers in France, for example, are 32% more likely to have graduated with a Master’s degree. This has prompted the development of specially designed products, such as tourist circuits that take fans to some of the most popular K-drama filming locations.

A tailored scenario

In Seoul last April, Breitling CEO Georges Kern referenced the strong rise in Swiss watch exports to South Korea (+25.7% in 2018), now a strategic priority. The brand’s first encounter with Korean dramas came in 2016, when “Descendants of the Sun” proved the power of product placement not only in South Korea but also in China. In “Memories Of The Alhambra” (알함브라 궁전의 추억), a futuristic dystopia that explores augmented reality and video games against a romantic subplot, the hero – Yoo Jin-woo, played by Hyun Bin – starts the series wearing a Breitling Navitimer 1. The watch, which is frequently visible on-screen, plays an important role in framing the narrative and helps viewers navigate the rather complex story.

(episode 3 of Memories of the Alhambra)
(episode 3 of Memories of the Alhambra)

Breitling’s product placement takes on an entirely new dimension in episode 14. Cornered by villains intent on taking his life, Yoo Jin-woo activates a special function of his Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42 that stops time. Our hero escapes while a song, set to the sound of a chronograph seconds hand, plays in the background.

Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42
Breitling Premier B01 Chronograph 42

Product placement such as this goes beyond visibility, as the brand and its products become a prominent part of the narrative, influencing its twists and turns. Properly implemented, this type of placement can build on and even reconcile two opposing levers. First off, it creates product awareness through associations with the characters/actors in the series that will appeal to people who are unfamiliar with the brand or its watches. Secondly, writing the product into the scenario is a means of highlighting its technical properties, appealing to purists. And where’s the drama in that?

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