Brands play, and pay, for stage role

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Brands play, and pay, for stage role


The play is set entirely in a pub, where the characters gather to drink and complain about the weather, gambling debts and tourists. In this production of Lee Sang-wu’s story, based on the play “The Weir,” by the Irish playwright Conor McPherson, the beer is Corona and the drunkenness is real.
Beer provided courtesy of the company.
“Having the company provide us the beer, we saved 3 million won ($3,100), which is about 3 percent of our total production costs,” said a marketing staff member from Stageship theater company, the group staging “Geogi,” the name of the adapted play.
Product placement ― the intentional inclusion of a brand name, paid for by the company ― has long soaked movies and television shows. These days, however, theaters are getting in on the act.
For every performance of “Geogi,” the cast of 13 consumes 15 bottles of beer, preferably as visibly as possible, to make sure the audience sees the brand name.
The beer bottles are also placed on the table. The brand is advertised on posters on the refrigerator, the walls and the entrance to the bar.
According to the contract that CEK, the importer of Corona, made with Stageship, the former must provide 1,700 bottles of beer for the performance, which runs through this Sunday.
The beer company is also providing its product to two other theater companies. A representative of the company said it had found that product placement was more effective in live theater than in cinema.
“And it is at least a third cheaper than paying filmmakers to have our products appear onscreen,” said Noh Jeong-hun, a marketer for CEK.
Though in most cases the brand is simply written into the show, there have been other cases in which a script is rewritten to incorporate a product.
One example is the performance, “I Love You,” in which a character shouts out a line that a scriptwriter added at the last moment: “I’m the one who ordered the Papa John’s pizza!”
“We look through the story and if we decide it suits our [product’s] image, we are glad to provide the props,” said Son Hyeon-ju, a manager at Papa John’s Korea.
Lee Min-kyung, an office worker and theater goer, said she felt uncomfortable seeing a certain soju brand appear on stage, but she liked that the marketers passed out free bottles of soju to the audience after the show. “As long as we don’t have to pay, it’s fine,” she said.
Other companies that have paid to have placed their products in plays so far are Kleenex, in “Sad Play”; Tour Les Jours, in “70 Minutes of Dating,” and Doosan Liquor BG, in “Sand Woman.”
But some marketers insist that they had nothing to do with a product being in the limelight. In “Statement,” for example, one character puffs away on Raison cigarettes.
“They probably used it because it’s a popular brand,” said a marketer at KT&G, which makes the cigarettes.
Korean law prohibits advertising cigarettes.

by Lee Min-a
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