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Snowbound in South Korea: Adland’s Perspective on the Winter Olympics

Trends and Insight 350 Add to collection

The world’s eyes are on PyeongChang, but what do local adlanders make of it? LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Publicis One’s Youmi Cho, Serviceplan’s Julie Kang and the team at Cheil to find out more

Snowbound in South Korea: Adland’s Perspective on the Winter Olympics
From the unprecedented entente between North and South Korea following the opening ceremony to the high-octane action on the slopes, the 2018 Winter Olympics have certainly captured the world’s imagination. They’ve also been a huge opportunity for brands. But what’s the reaction on the ground? Serviceplan CEO and Managing Partner Julie Kang, Publicis One CEO Youmi Cho and the team from Cheil chime in!


LBB> What has the overall public attitude been towards the Winter Olympics? Is there a lot of excitement? Or have the Olympics lost their shine? (I read a story a few months ago that said many tickets were still unsold).

Youmi Cho> There has indeed been a trend of decreasing interest among Koreans in the Olympic Games in recent years, which is actually consistent with the global trend. However recently, the PyeongChang Olympics started generating quite a bit of excitement among the South Koreans again, due to the participation of the North Korean team. The South Korean government is keen to leverage this opportunity to create a peaceful environment between the South and the North – planning cultural exchange programs in addition to the sporting activities.  

Julie Kang> The PyeongChang Winter Olympics are the first Winter Olympics, as well as second Olympics, held in Korea since the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Hosting this global event conveys considerable importance and significance. It is true that we, as the hosts of the event, were more or less indifferent towards it being held in our nation until a few months ago. However, as we’ve come closer to the opening ceremonies, the public began to pay more attention to the event. Olympic tickets are being sold rapidly, trains and buses to the arena in Gangwon-do are fully booked, and the PyeongChang Olympics have become a daily topic of discussion in the media. While this winter is more severe than ever, most of us are hoping that the PyeongChang Olympics will bear its fruit.


LBB> And have there been any elements in particular that have caught the public imagination? (e.g. I read a story that the official padded coats were crazily popular.) 

Youmi Cho> An interesting one is the ‘Moon Jae-in Watch and Lunch with President Moon’, a popular promotion of the PyeongChang Olympics to attract Koreans’ attendance at the Games. 20 participants were selected from over 13,000 people - who posted photos of themselves with their own tickets to the Olympic Games - to have lunch with President Moon and receive the Moon Jae-in Watch, a coveted souvenir among the Koreans.  

Julie Kang> North Korea joined in the PyeongChang Olympics, and consequently the inter-relationship between the two Koreas - which had been frozen since two years ago - has restarted out of this momentum. So this Olympics has become known as the "Polympics" (P standing for politics). Apart from this reconciliatory gesture from North Korea, many South Koreans still view the whole thing quite sceptically due to North Korea’s frequent whims and disorders from the past. 

And the PyeongChang Games 'goods' are definitely booming. Starting to gain popularity a few months before the Olympics, the PyeongChang 'goods' were more responsive than the event itself. Particularly the PyeongChang ‘Long Padding’ jacket, PyeongChang Olympic Torch, Sunglasses modelled on Olympic Rings, PyeongChang Sneakers and Olympic Mascots (Suhorang and Bandibi dolls), which are all popular merchandise. 

It’s first come, first served. And sometimes even money can’t buy them. Intense online auctions are going on and some people were seen waiting in front of the store for a few nights to purchase the products with limited quantities. 

The Olympics goods licensing team said the affordable price would satisfy "all age groups regardless of gender." The reasons for the boom are cost-effectiveness and scarcity. Affordable prices, coupled with high quality and the limited-edition nature of being available only during this time have meant many people joined the PyeongChang goods craze. 

Lastly, the inspirational role of ICT is key. It can be seen from the infrastructure to the opening ceremony, including the gorgeous, record-setting 1,218-drone show which decorated the sky with the Olympic rings.  


LBB> In terms of the big official partners and sponsors, which have really impressed with their creative?

Julie Kang> Hyundai motors, which is one of the official partners of the PyeongChang Olympics, is running an unconventional social campaign ‘Light Up Car Curling’, which sparked from the Olympic sport of curling. Deriving from the sport, in which points are scored for every stone slid into a target, the campaign has a target to near the crosswalk of a four-lane load. Participants in the campaign monitor the road through a camera installed near the crosswalk and are given the opportunity to guess which car will stop nearest to the target. They earn points each time they find the right one, and all the points will be collected to sponsor the Korean wheelchair curling team. As the Olympics draw much of the attention and interest from different nations, Hyundai, as a leading partner of the Olympics, is playing a crucial role in establishing proper traffic culture through its unique campaign.

Cheil> The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics have been grabbing much attention from the Korean people, because it is the second time that the country has hosted the Olympic Games in 30 years - since the Seoul Summer Olympics in 1988.  

Big businesses that support the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, including Samsung Electronics, have conducted the Olympic Torch Relay campaign, where 7,500 torchbearers carried the torch travelling to 17 cities and provinces nationwide for 101 days from November 1st to February 9th.  The torch relay covered 2,018 kilometres in distance. In particular, Samsung’s PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Torch Relay campaign #DoWhatYouCant gave people impressions by sharing the stories of 1,500 torchbearers who have overcome barriers in pursuit of dreams and encourages everyone to discover their potential. 


LBB> Sometimes, Olympic events can be GREAT for a local advertising industry, as local agencies get a chance to shine. Sometimes, though, the big brands go with their global agencies in New York, etc. and there isn’t much interesting work for the local agencies to do. What is the situation in Korea? Has the event opened up many creative opportunities for South Korean advertising agencies?

Youmi Cho> Korean consumers prefer advertising that features Korean athletes and celebrities, which means that local agencies (including multinational agencies based in South Korea) will have an edge over the global agencies in delivering culturally-relevant and nuanced campaigns. For the PyeongChang Olympics, there are certainly plenty of creative opportunities for local agencies. 

Julie Kang> Facing the Olympics, the restrictions for ambush marketing has become stricter than ever. Therefore, brands that are not official sponsors of the Olympics are quite passive in their marketing. This is the reason it’s difficult to find outstanding creative advertisements even though it is Olympics season. 

To choose one of the few that is receiving much attention, it would be Coca-Cola’s gigantic vending machine. Installed in Seoul and Gangneung, which are the busiest spots in Korea at the moment, the vending machine is a place where people can stop by and experience the PyeongChang Olympics. 

Also, even though Coca-Cola is not a domestic brand, and may not be the most ideal one for a campaign that reflects Korean culture and zeitgeist, the campaign itself was designed and created by Korean agencies, and therefore has in itself the creativity of Korean minds.



Cheil> Cheil has been carrying out a variety of marketing projects for Samsung Electronics (who is The Olympic Partner for the 2018 Winter Olympics). Some of the other official partners, such as Coca-Cola and P&G, have been working with their global agencies’ local offices or mid-to-small sized agencies here in Korea.

Most of the 82 local sponsors (11 official partners, 13 official sponsors, 25 official suppliers, and 33 official supporters) who have the right to do Olympic marketing within the nation have been working with local agencies, expecting various potential business opportunities.


LBB> What Olympic-orientated projects have you worked on? Samsung is a major sponsor and I’m sure they’ve got a lot of interesting things on the go!

Cheil> Cheil is responsible for planning and operating both the opening and closing events for the 2018 Winter Olympics. In addition, it has successfully carried out Samsung’s PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Torch Relay campaign. It also has been operating the Samsung Olympic Showcase that will bring Samsung’s technological innovations to the Olympic games through fun, interactive, immersive fan experiences. Throughout the Winter Olympic Games, a total of nine showcases will be in PyeongChang and Gangneung, including Olympic Parks and the Olympic Villages, the main press centre, and four activations at the Incheon International Airport.

The Samsung SmartSuit campaign in collaboration with Samsung Netherlands raised the company’s brand profile as the world’s leading IT innovator by providing Dutch short track speed skaters with smart suits and an associated app to help them in training. 


LBB> And every year we also see non-sponsors try to bend the rules and do cheeky guerrilla executions – have there been any examples of this?

Youmi Cho> SK Telecom, a major local telco company who isn’t an official sponsor, had a recent campaign banned by the PyeongChang Olympic committee. The campaign showed Yuna Kim, an Olympic gold medallist in figure skating, try out other Olympic sports such as skiing and speed skating. While no Olympic Games logo was shown in the commercial, the material was deemed to lead people to associate it with the Olympics by the Olympics committee, which resulted in its ban. 

Julie Kang> The ad explains how Yuna Kim enjoys snowboarding, biathlon, speed skating, and skeleton, which are all Olympic sports. On her uniform she carries the SKT logo on her right arm, and the commercial mentions PyeongChang. This became a major issue as KT, not SKT, is the official sponsor, and it was arguable that SKT confused viewers by making it sound like it is the official sponsor. As a result, SKT’s advertising campaign was ceased immediately. 


LBB> Has your agency worked on any Olympics-orientated projects for brands? If so, what are they?

Julie Kang> Serviceplan Korea is having its own busy days representing our nation as an Olympic host. And we are getting ready to release a campaign based on the Olympics. It cannot be revealed as of now but regardless of whether we will succeed with this campaign, we are passionately working together on it. 


LBB> The Winter Olympics are a huge global event – what do you hope international audiences and visitors learn about Korea?

Youmi Cho> The majority of the international media coverage around Korea, especially recently, has been negative due to North Korea’s risk. 

South Korea is a dynamic country with a lot of positive, exciting and interesting developments. We hope international audiences will get to experience the energy and hospitality of Koreans, while at the same time, enjoying the rich and vibrant Korean culture. 

Julie Kang> The Olympics are a global event, and thus it is a golden opportunity to let people from different nations know more about Korea. Through this event, I would love to show them the sublimity of Korean art and cuisine. Despite its uniqueness and diversity in taste, it does not quite receive the reputation and interest it deserves in the international market. I hope this event will be a milestone for the enlightenment of Korean taste in cuisine and culture.


LBB> In terms of technology – VR, AR, etc. – what are visitors likely to experience at the Olympics?

Youmi Cho> The PyeongChang Olympics will be the platform where cutting edge brands introduce their latest technology to international audiences and visitors. Thanks to the unexpected political event (North Korea’s participation), global attention will be more focused on PyeongChang Olympics than any other recent Olympics. In addition to VR, AR, and AI technology, future retail, future shopping and future brand experiences will all be showcased at this event. 

Julie Kang> The PyeongChang Olympics are also referred to as the ‘ICT Olympics’. Without a doubt, ICT technology is ubiquitous in the arenas in various ways. To name a few, 5G technology was installed for the first time ever, AR technology was installed to create ‘AR Ways,’ which help visitors find the destinations they wish to get to. There is also a parking system using loT technology. Visitors can also experience VR technology in which various Olympics sports are simulated. 

Furthermore, the application named ‘Genie Talk’ provides convenience for visitors by translating eight different languages using AI. The most intriguing technology used in the Olympics would be the 85 robots installed in the arenas. There are not only robots that perceive the actions, facial expressions, and voices of visitors to welcome them, but also robots that clean on their own, serve drinks, and help carry the torch.

Cheil> Leading Korean ICT businesses, including Samsung Electronics and KT, will showcase their advanced technologies at the 2018 Winter Olympics such as the world’s first 5G trial service, with a 5G-enabled device (tablet).
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LBB Editorial, Thu, 15 Feb 2018 16:52:39 GMT