“Producer” Struggles with the Pressure of Product Placements

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The staff of KBS‘s drama “Producer” is in a happy yet difficult situation. Starring some of the hottest Hallyu stars in the industry like Kim Soo Hyun, Gong Hyo Jin, IU, and Cha Tae Hyun, the production team was able to cover much of the production cost of this drama through the sales of overseas licensing rights and indirect advertising (product placement ads- PPL). But what happens when everyone wants a (bigger) piece of the pie?

Approximately 400 million won (around 360,000 USD) is spent for every episode of “Producer,” making the total budget of the drama 4.8 billion won (around 4.4 million USD). Fortunately for the production team, it was able to sell licensing rights  to Sohu, a Chinese televising site, even before the premiere at the incredible price of 2.5 billion won (around 2.2 million USD). The production also grossed around 2 billion won (1.8 million USD) through PPL. Sponsored clothing, as well as furniture, drinks, food, and other various products and brands are funding the drama production through their product placement advertisements seen throughout the drama.

The problem is, those companies are hoping for what they call “Kim Soo Hyun effect,” meaning they are really pressuring the production company to effectively use the fact that the incredibly popular Kim Soo Hyun is in this drama to advertise their products to a large audience.

The reality is, though, “Producer” mainly focuses on the variety department’s producers and celebrities, and is centered around what happens in broadcasting studios and offices. This means that there are lots of rules that the crew has to go by to keep the story realistic, which also means there are limits to certain props and fashion styles. Moreover, the staff of the drama are worried because excessive PPL may interrupt viewers and the smooth flow of the story.

One representative of “Producer” says, “It is true that Kim Soo Hyun’s domestic and overseas popularity helps PPL, which especially targets Chinese markets. The staff and the writer are paying close attention not to break the flow of the drama [with these advertisements.]”

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