South Korea’s leading distiller, HiteJinro, has chosen a new, appalling marketing strategy for a fresh wave of TV commercials. New ads are featuring some of the country’s hottest K-pop stars. The ad campaign is called “Tipsy Live”.
Unethical marketing practices
Everything about the marketing campaign calls into question alcohol industry talking points about
- their “effort” to promote “moderate” or “responsible” alcohol use
- their “effort” not to target children and youth
- their credibility in self-regulating their business practices.
The young K-pop stars are depicted consuming soju, seemingly already tipsy. The films are obviously targeting the young generation, aiming to strengthen the liquor maker’s connection with young Koreans. The films appear to be intimate and seem to be spontaneous reflections of reality – but alcohol marketing is not to imply that use of alcohol makes people sociable, funny, successful and/ or attractive.
HiteJinro’s marketing campaign started in November 2015 with ads featuring singer-songwriter Roy Kim. Ever since, more than a dozen K-pop artists across all genres have endorsed the brand. Driven by their popularity, the videos had accumulated over 70 million views as of August.
Pervasive, massive alcohol harm
Evidence shows that South Koreans consume more alcohol than any other nation. Soju, a fermented-rice spirit, is the country’s favorite, with more than seven million bottles consumed every night. Alcohol consumption is pervasive, and so is alcohol harm.
There are at least 1.6 million people with alcohol use disorders in South Korea. The costs of alcohol harm burden society with $20bn a year.