How did you spend your winter break? I confess I spent a considerable amount of time on media content platforms watching TV shows, dramas, and movies. I assume many will empathize with me. With coronavirus confirmed cases spiking to more than 1,000 a day and the social distancing remaining at Level 2.5, I stayed home and accessed Netflix, TVING, Wavve, and Watcha alternately.
One thing that caught my interest while entertaining myself was the use of product placement. As a type of marketing technique, almost every media content we watch contains a lot of product placements. However, some product placements inserted in a work caused me discomfort either because it was awkward or too explicit. Sometimes it even made me wonder if I was watching an advertisement. That is how I realized that product placements could easily get excessive, and therefore need regulations.
I do not mean to say that we must get rid of it entirely. The use of product placements is inevitable. This is because, in exchange for showing a product on camera, producers receive money that helps maintain the production cost. So, although product placements continue, there should be some strict regulations to prevent it from going excessive.
One reason why regulations are needed is that excessive product placement interrupts the flow of the content. I noticed that this could become severe, especially in dramas. The purpose of watching a drama is to be immersed in the scene, characters, and development of the story. Unfortunately, the sudden appearance of a product placement may obstruct one’s immersion.
For example, a Korean drama called “The King: Eternal Monarch” that was aired in 2020 had been caught up in controversy because of its excessive use of product placements. In one scene, actor Lee Min-ho takes a sip of Georgia Craft Coffee, holds it in front of the camera showing its trademark, and praises its taste. This sudden, awkward, and unnecessary appearance of the product cut off the story’s flow. Several articles were published criticizing the drama using phrases such as “makes viewer uncomfortable,” “veering on the absurd,” and “yet to impress viewers.”
Another reason why product placements should be regulated is that when excessive, it can manipulate people to purchase a product. One way of manipulating people can be by positive comments. When people hear of the good things that are said about a product only, they may think one-sidedly and want to buy it. Another manipulative way can be by celebrities. When a celebrity appears on screen wearing, holding, or possessing a certain product, it is bound to catch attention. People have a tendency in wanting to buy a product that a celebrity appears to have. The more famous, good-looking, and well-liked the celebrity is, the more people become interested in the specific product.
In “Hotel Deluna,” a Korean drama that aired in 2019, the popular singer and actor IU played the leading role. In almost every episode, she appeared wearing a variety of sunglasses that were all from Vedivero. As for the type of sunglasses she wore in episode 3, it became temporarily out of stock due to a lot of people’s purchases. As we can see, product placement may manipulate people into buying the product.
Then, how should product placements be strictly regulated? Although this is a matter that the broadcasting center needs to contemplate, a possible way could be limiting the number of products accepted to marketing and cutting down on screen time allocated for each product. There could also be a limit on the proportion a product takes up the screen.
Although product placements cannot be avoided, I believe strict regulations would keep it from becoming excessive. As a result, producers are allowed their creative freedom to create quality content, while ensuring advertisers get their money’s worth out of their marketing investments and viewers can have a pleasurable viewing experience watching their favorite shows.