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An In-depth Look At Product Placement Strategy In Korean Drama

The Korean Wave has swept the world with its unique culture that ranges from K-pop to celebrities, meanwhile sponsorship marketing has continued to grow and become one of the fastest and effective means of promotion around the world.

Remember Ellen DeGeneres’s “impromptu”selfie at the Oscar? Of course, it can’t be coincidence. Though it looks very spontaneous, the truth is that Samsung Electronics Co. spent an estimated $20 million on ads to run during breaks in the Academy Awards broadcast. As part of its sponsorship and Ad pact for the Oscars with ABC, Samsung pre-planned to have its Galaxy smartphone nicely integrated into the show.

Photo source: ABC

Much like in the United States, brand integration in Korean television programs has become a pretty common practice.

The coffee shop (café)

In Korea, the producer will smartly integrate many venues into the storyline. For instance, many coffee shops/café had an extensive exposition throughout the show. Sometimes, the leading characters are scripted to work as a part time employee at the restaurant. On top of multiple shots taken inside the café, audiences are exposed to various beverages that are offered.


As always, the latest smartphones on the market will be exposed throughout various variety shows and dramas. This is because smartphone brands need to find a way to advertise its products and product placement is a direct way to insert their products into the show. In the past, there used to be typical advertisements window to showcase their products, but as the number of ad-free OTT platforms increased, thus more brands started to actively use product placement strategy as a way to insert their products into the shows. Just like Netflix is known for Ad-free, however, it doesn’t mean it’s brand free. In ‘Stranger Things’, it teamed up with 75 brands to promote the show.

Over the years, the biggest spender was always Samsung, who is currently dominating the smartphone markets in Asia, and its products are omnipresent throughout many series across different shows, therefore many models of samsung phones or home appliances represent as a vital accessory to the characters, almost in every high-budget dramas and variety shows. Even though the logo has in fact been removed from the product itself, it is still very notable to be recognized as a Samsung brand.

Designer Brands

Many designer brands benefited hugely from the brand appearance in the show. A representative reported that sales for that specific product went up 50 times after the episode aired, and revealed that Chinese tourists who traveled Korea inquired about the product by bringing up screen captures of the show.

The SBS television show “My Love from the Star ” was a huge hit in 2014, almost all products worn by Female leads, from head to toe, are sponsored by different brands.

Amorepacific, the South's largest cosmetics firm, said sales of the skincare line and lipsticks surged 75 per cent and 400 per cent respectively, largely thanks to booming sales from China. "In the past, PPL on South Korean TV shows boosted domestic sales only," the company said. "But we've recently seen it having an immediate and widespread impact in Asia."

Photo source: Gianna Jun and Do Min-joon in My Love from the Star, SBS

In the past, more than 90 percent of product placement deals on South Korean TV shows involve domestic firms, but recently more foreign companies are also attracted by the lure of skyrocketing sales in a key regional market.

In recent years, with the help of the global Streaming platform, branded entertainment in Korean TV has a bright future ahead : the country’s programming is consumed by millions of fans worldwide, and is gaining more and more popularity in continents beyond Asia.

To seamlessly squeeze dozens of products into a less than hour show is demanding, but this integration has proven itself to pay off and will be an even “critical part” of the contemporary television industry.

So behold! The power of product placement!