What's for Sale? Selling Songs and K-pop Idols in Korean Commercials

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Music has the potential to stir feelings on both conscious and subconscious levels. Because audiences learn how to interpret musical clues, it does not matter whether the original intent of a piece of music bears any relation to the medium or narrative in which it is newly embedded. When it is used in a movie viewed by people other than the intended audience, however, music can disrupt the narrative flow. Where its purpose is to promote, as in commercials, music must therefore align well with its target audience. Alignment is behind the three key features of music in television commercials that Claudia Bullerjahn (2006) identifies: motivation, opportunity, and ability. While the first and second features relate to the use of music to attract and to convey information, respectively, the third relates to the use of music to help the target audience digest the information on account of a good “fit.” But how do these features play out in TV commercials in South Korea, where celebrities, including K-pop idols, dominate the advertising world? Do the images that celebrities portray correspond with the commercials’ music and target audience? In this study I explore the combined use of music and K-pop idols in South Korean commercials since 2009 and examine how advertisers ensure the commercial message is clear and persuasive. I argue that when a popular K-pop idol endorses many different products, rather than resulting in overexposure, this has a cumulative effect on the efficacy of the individual marketing campaigns.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)167-194
    JournalKorean Studies
    Publication statusPublished - 2022


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