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362. PPL in Korean TV Dramas, Is It Excessive?

Jang, Su-jeong 기자2016.06.18 17:01:17

Descendants of the Sun, which is a South Korean military romance drama, ended on April 14th. It has swept China and Japan, as well as Korea, but it has become controversial due to excessive product placement (PPL) in Korea. These kinds of indirect advertisements have increased since 2010 because the Korea Communications Commission has relaxed the regulations. As many products have been used for advertising in TV dramas, the drama makers can make quality dramas with the advertising revenues, but viewers often think that PPL lowers their quality.

 

[The Positive Influence of PPL]

PPL was originally used to mean the placement of a product in a proper place for each scene in a movie. Getting actual goods from a corporation helped to lend realism to the scene and saved money. As movies with PPL have drawn in many audiences, the awareness of the brand and the sales of the product have increased. More and more advertisers started to regard PPL as a good method for promoting their products. The change of the perspective led to a change of the meaning of PPL; it commonly refers to sponsorship for a film production company or a broadcasting company in return for exposing a product and its brand logo in film, televisions or other media. Sponsorship indicates that corporations sponsor drama makers as a marketing strategy in order to achieve sales success. For example, when My Love from the Star became a huge hit, the products such as the coat and lipstick, which the leading actress wore, were completely sold out. If a product mixes well with the plot or the characteristics of the actors or actresses, it has an effect, not only on recognizing, but also liking the product.

 

[The Growing PPL Industry]

With the advent of many new media markets such as the smartphones, the advertisement revenues in TV broadcasting industries around the world have decreased. This led to a downturn in the broadcasting advertisement market and weakened the competitiveness of the broadcasting companies, which get most of their profit from advertisements. This circumstance changed the global regulations and rules on media and advertisements. For instance, at EU level, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive established several crucial principles for a safe, pluralistic and open audiovisual media landscape in 2007. This includes permission for PPL, which used to be strictly banned.

 

Until 2009, PPL in Korea had been legally banned because the viewers can confuse a program with an advertisement, and it could represent unfair competition for companies which do not use PPL in TV. However, the Broadcasting Law was revised in January, 2010, which allowed indirect advertisements in TV dramas. It aimed to cope with falling revenues due to the development of new media, and raise new revenues in broadcasting industries. Since then, the indirect advertisement market in Korean TV has increased steadily; 2.98 billion won in 2010, 17.41 billion in 2011, 26.23 billion in 2012 and 436.3 billion in 2013.

 

 [Why the Viewers Think PPL Is Excessive]

When the plot of a TV drama becomes unnatural owing to an obvious PPL, it can disturb viewers’ attention. This is mainly because of two structural characteristics in making TV dramas. First, more than 60% of network TV dramas are outsourced, and the broadcasters cover around 50% of the production costs on average. Most of the outsourcing companies rely on PPL to cover the high production costs. The advertisement revenues depend on the the setting types and the exposure time, which means the advertisers can affect on what happens in the story. Second, the ‘live-shoot[1]’ system in many Korean dramas allows PPL to be used in the middle of writing and making the dramas. If a drama records a high viewing rate, the company accepts as many requests for PPL as possible. These circumstances often result in a change from a well-plotted story to an obvious advertisement, because the writers have little time to put the advertised products naturally into the plot. Furthermore, the rules and regulations on PPL are not easy to follow and largely ignored, although they stipulate the permissible range, time, numbers and methods.

 

PPL can increase awareness of a showed product, which can influence buying experiences and future buying intentions. However, some claim that PPL irrelevant to the story ruins the plot, especially when it seems obvious. Structural problems in making a TV drama often lead to excessive PPL in spite of the regulations. Under these circumstances, the regulations should reflect a realistic situation in order to control PPL. It is also critical to balance the needs of the people concerned.

 



[1] This live-shoot system means the drama makers shoot only the first few episodes of a drama before it goes to air, and they continue filming as the run proceeds. This filming system is notorious for its hectic filming schedules, harsh conditions, and last-minute script changes.

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