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Supporting stars take center stage in viral ads

Sept 17,2019
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From left: Actors known for popular supporting roles appear in a new commercial for SK Broadband; Lee Jung-eun, right, and Lee Dong-wook star in an advertisement for real estate platform Jikbang. [SCREEN CAPTURE]
An increasing number of firms are replacing high-profile stars in commercials with supporting cast members that have left a strong impression in popular films or television series.

On the back of the growing trend to watch shows and movies online instead of on television, firms have started to show a preference for less renowned actors that have created a splash for ads that will be broadcast online.

Industry insiders say the strategy not only saves money, but is also said to be efficient considering that emerging stars can help update the image of established brands.

Lee Jung-eun from Bong Joon-ho’s award-winning “Parasite” (2019) and Kim Byung-chul from JTBC’s sensational television series “SKY Castle” (2018-19) are two of the beneficiaries of the latest trend.

Lee Jung-eun earlier this month joined Lee Dong-wook, the star of tvN’s “Guardian: The Lonely and Great God” (2016) to shoot a commercial for real estate platform Jikbang.

Last month, Lee Jung-eun appeared in SK Broadband’s ad for its artificial intelligence IPTV television set-top box along with Kim Jang Kwang and Hur Young-ji, a former member of girl group Kara, both of who are also known for playing small but scene-stealing roles.

Lee Jung-eun has left a strong impression with audiences thanks to popular supporting roles in a number of dramas and films like “Parasite,” where she played a live-in housekeeper, the Netflix-funded historical series “Mr. Sunshine,” in which she played a slave, and Bong’s “Okja,” where she voiced the titular giant pig.

Kim, who played supporting roles in “Guardian” and KBS2’s sensational romance “Descendants of the Sun” (2016), starred in a commercial for Samsung Life Insurance in April and Paldo Wangdukgung Ramen in February.

“Hiring several supporting actors instead of a single big star reduces risks and is more affordable,” said an industry source. “If a single model causes social troubles, that could cause tremendous financial damage to the firm, but having several models means the risk is distributed. Less exposed actors also give off a refreshing image.”

Hiring supporting actors is in line with the trend of investing more in online commercials that are often broadcast more regularly.

“Firms these days are investing more in YouTube commercials to produce viral advertisements,” said a source within the advertisement industry. “That’s why we see high-profile stars in television commercials but supporting actors in online advertisements, where quantity and buzz matter.”

BY JIN MIN-JI [jin.minji@joongang.co.kr]