Fan clubs to the fore in influencing decisionsWherever there are stars, there are fans and fan clubs. But rather than a group of giggling girls swooning at the sight of their favorite celebrities, fan clubs have come to the fore as an influential force for entertainment companies making marketing decisions.
Casiopea, a domestic fan club for the K-pop boy band TVXQ, boasts 3 million members. When they decide to undertake a group activity, companies bend over backwards to win their hearts.
“All About TVXQ,” the band's newly-released DVD of photos and music videos, costs 27,500 won ($30), relatively expensive for teenagers. However, more than 60,000 copies have been sold in the less than two months it has been on sale.
For singer Bi, or Rain, his yet-to-be released DVD has received $11 million worth of pre-orders from fan clubs abroad. Hallyu (Korean culture wave) actor Bae Yong-joon, or Yonsama as he is known in Japan, made over $21 million there just from an album of photos.
Fan club’s shopping sprees have also spread to items their favorite celebrities advertise.
Members of YEH Style, the fan club for actress Yoon Eun-hye, favor one drink these days: Haru Green Tea, which Yoon advertises on television.
“Celebrities that have giant fan clubs have a very powerful influence [over sales] when they appear in advertisements,” said Yoo Ho-il, a department head at LG Ad.
A new type of cherry drink called, “Beautiful like pomegranates,” sold more than 8 billion won’s worth the first month it was on the market. Actor Lee Jun-gi modeled for the drink commercial and his fan club was more than willing to buy the beverage.
Lee Dong-yeon, a professor at the Korean National University of Arts, said, “Fan club members seem to believe that their lifestyle should be linked in every way to their idols.”
Entertainment businesses have come to realize that fan clubs play an important role in “managing” the stars as well, almost as much as a professional agency would.
Singer Bi was overwhelmed with special attention from his fans recently. During his filming of a television drama, fan club members visited him on the set. They brought with them food from a posh catering service for the singer and the entire film crew.
In Jeong-ok, a television scriptwriter, probably cannot thank actress Lee Na-young enough. As a newcomer to the drama scene, In’s shows “Do As You Want” and “Island” started out poorly in viewer ratings. Lee’s fans boosted the ratings by writing online that the dramas were good. Both became popular and In is now one of the highest-paid writers in the business.
Fan clubs, however, are not always welcomed by their idol’s agencies. When celebrities have faced legal disputes with their agencies, fan clubs have held rallies to protest against the agencies.
A news program had to make an official apology in March when Bi’s fan club made non-stop phone calls to complain about an error. While “Morning News Time,” a KBS news program, was reporting about lip-sync performances, it showed a clip of Bi singing on stage. Fans made hundreds of postings to the program’s Web site, blaming the broadcaster for using an inaccurate example and hurting the singer's image. They wanted the broadcaster to apologize.
by Lee Na-ree, Lee Min-a