April 11, 2006 ㅡ Last year, the new face of cosmetic ads in Korea was the pretty-faced young male. with a feel for neutral gender. This year, the women are back. But this time, they are much sexier ― and older.
The young men may still be there but their roles have retreated a step to become foils for these actresses who obviously want to tell the viewers at home that they could become like them as well ― if they used the products.
In a new ad for Coenzyme Q10 Whitening products from Somang Cosmetics, Kim Hye-soo sits alone in a cold police interrogation room wearing a black miniskirt. Her legs are crossed. She is staring at a tired-looking investigator in front of her with a mischievous smile.
In front of her is Hyun Bin, a young slim heartthrob, portraying an angry policeman. He demands to know Kim’s age. Instead of an answer, she stretches out her legs and re-crosses them, giving a radiant smile.
Hyun again demands for her to speak. When there is no answer, he walks up to her and stares hard at her, but steps back surprised at how "young" she looks.
Kim is 37 years old. Hyun, a new face to the entertainment scene last year, is 24.
"She must be 25, or 26?" Hyun says to himself in the ad, while touching Kim’s cheek with his index finger.
In an earlier ad for the skin-care chain The Face Shop, ruby-lipped film star Kwon Sang-woo nuzzled young actresses beside a berry tree.
In the new version, he is paddling his feet in a lake. Beside him sits actress Ko So-young, who may be only four years older than him, but is 10 years ahead in her acting career.
"People say that Kwon and Ko look adorable together as a couple," said Kim Mi-yeon, the promotions head of The Face Shop. "No one feels uncomfortable anymore about ads that feature female models that are older than their co-starring males."
Just two years ago, a shampoo ad for CJ Rice Day, ran an ad that showed a young man tossing an amorous remark at his female superior. In the commercial, the big-eyed, fair-skinned male approached the older woman. He started by calling her seonbae, or "superior" in Korean, and whispered that she looks much prettier without makeup. The seonbae quietly blushes.
The response back then was that the ad was "awkward" and "disturbing." But such ads kept appearing. Many put the older women in a position where women were direct and vigorous instead of passive.
In a cellphone ad for Cyon Idea, actress Kim Tae-hee tells her "younger male friend," played by Hyun Bin again, to stop addressing her as "Nuna," or "older female friend." She then leans against the young man, who is embarrassed by her direct approach.
"Female models in their 30s are becoming a more popular choice for cosmetic companies," said Yang Yeong-cheol, a team head of advertisement maker Intermax AdCom. "They give products a more sophisticated and mature image than models in their 20s could."
by Lee Min-a <[email protected]>