Monday, December 23, 2013

A somewhat unsatisfying Samsung CF


What's missing, I feel, is the ultimate conclusion to this guy stalking this girl ('Hey, I know we just met, but I secretly took not just photos of you but also video! Check it out!'), which would be later in the hotel room when (after he answers in the negative when she asks him 'Aren't you going to take the watch off?') he makes his own x-rated clip of her and spreads it on the internet, becoming a hot topic in Samsung-friendly news outlets in Korea (ie. all of them).

The comments are, to put it nicely, unsupportive of the ad, calling it 'creepy' and such. Come on, non-Koreans! Please try to understand that Korea is home to sayings, as James has noted, such as '"열번찍어 안넘이 가는 나무 없다," which roughly translates as "There is no tree that can withstand being chopped 10 times."' (Though, to be fair, this comment should be read in tandem with that quote.)

Still, one wonders if the old 'we know what foreigners want/like, so why the hell would we ask them their thoughts on our ad campaign' mindset played some role in this just plain bad ad.


Ben said...

The ad should warn that any "Jack" types trying this sort of spycam pickup gambit at Haeundae beach could wind up with "sex crime" charges.

matt said...

Good point... here's a post about that from this summer...

Mike said...

Annoying all the way down to the breathless "OHMYGOT!" that Koreans seem to think is suitable verbal vomit whenever something goes awry.

King Baeksu said...

Wow, Korean technology is so amazing that it even transforms Westerners into the members of the minjok. Resistance is futile!

godspace said...

aaaaaaaaaand the comments are now ... disabled.

that didn't take long.
it seems negative public feedback is not what they were looking for.

more likely, the adulation of the hot waegukin blonde to korea's "creepy jack" mascot.

King Baeksu said...

"It seems negative public feedback is not what they were looking for."

Samsung's admen were going for "hip" and "edgy" with this "CF," but their mistake was to expect that Korean notions of "cool" align with those of the West. They don't. In individualistic Western cultures, "cool" is motivated by radical differentiation, or at least a simulation of such, whereas in a collectivist culture like Korea's, "cool" is much more a marker of higher "status" that still implicitly embraces membership within the group, or more precisely, the minjok.

If I had to guess, I would say this "CF" was produced or conceived by Koreans and may have first been aimed primarily at a Korean viewership given its retrograde gender dynamics, overvalued technology fetishization and none-too-subtle comedic elements that suggest standard Korean TV genre conventions. In their hubris, they probably thought they had a "winner" on their hands and decided to show it to the world via YouTube.

The rest of the world, especially, Western YouTube viewers, does not seem to have found the ad terribly "hip" or "edgy," which is why Samsung decided to disable the comments. Defeats the entire purpose of the ad, doesn't it?

Do Samsung's marketing people really think girls will fuck you just because you have a goofy "smartwatch"? Not very "cool" in my opinion, but I'll bet the Ajosshis in Suwon have a rather different opinion.

King Baeksu said...

A recent story in PC Mag, "Samsung's Creepy Galaxy Gear Ad: Tone Deaf, Again,"would seem to support my above reading:

"This all harkens back, of course, to the disastrous "Unpacked" event where Samsung introduced the Galaxy S4. That event was bashed for its wierdly sexist skits that seemed to be a ham-handed attempt to riff on "Sex and the City."

"The Verge had a great interview with the Broadway guys drafted to create that awful S4 presentation. The problem seems to be that Samsung executives in Korea are micromanaging much of the company's publicity without trusting writers and directors who know the cultural subtleties of target markets.

"This is more subtle than a need to have more women on staff. I've met Samsung's communications team, and they're a pretty gender-balanced bunch. This is about cultural disconnects. It's obvious that "Are You Geared Up?" wasn't produced in an English-speaking country, from the cast's accents and breathtakingly Eurotrashy ski gear.

"Samsung needs to understand that cultural values aren't the same everywhere, and what reads as funny or lighthearted to one country may look stiff, strange or even creepy in another. That even holds in countries with the same language - there's all sorts of stuff on British and Australian TV that wouldn't play the same here."


Long story short: In Korea, having a crapload of money and expensive toys often is "cool," whereas in the West, someone who was really cool wouldn't be stalking women as "Jack" does in this ad, and would need to come up with a lot better dialogue than simply "Check out my watch!" if he wanted to get any action.

King Baeksu said...

There are heaps of stories about this ad in the Western media, for example here:

It seems to be "going viral" in all the wrong ways. I expect that Max Fisher will be weighing in soon with his usual perceptive analysis in Korean culture and society.

In various reader comments some are speculating that the ad is so bad that it's ironically so, and others arguing that it's offensive to suggest that it was made for Korean viewers since that would be offensive to mainstream Korean culture itself.

Having worked with many Korean directors over the years, I am certain that the director for this ad was Korean given how unsutble the acting is in it. I did some searching and found this comment on Reddit by a Western actor in Seoul who did another ad for Samsung recently:

"Hi. So I'm an actor/model living in Seoul, and im playing the 'businessman' in this promo. now, admittedly its not my best work lol, but most people arent aware of just how many factors go into making it this bad. Allow me to elaborate. They force us to speak slowly since this will be dubbed over in Korean, and even when it isnt, most people viewing it will be Korean. They ask us to exaggerate since many Korean people feel thats how we 'naturally' act (most people here are not very expressive). Ive worked many jobs where I tried to act naturally only to be told by the director to act more 'bright' (ie exaggerate). its how the director and client (in this case, Samsung), WANT us to act. the script is brutal. written by non-native english speakers, and sometimes the PD or director wont even take our suggestions to change some parts so they sound like something a normal native english speaker would say. its a promotional video, not a tv commercial, meaning it will be shown at conventions and expos and in-house. most of the people watching it are korean and thats why they make us do all of the above. edit: almost forgot, shooting took place from 730am - 3am the next day, and by the time they shot the scenes with the girl, she was literally falling asleep in her chair, hence the stoned expression and tone :)"


Again, I have to guess that this ad was at least partly conceived with Korean viewers in mind. Perhaps they wanted to create an "international" ad that would work both for Westerners and Koreans? Indeed, the idea might even have been to show how Samsung is "conquering the planet" these days and thereby impress Korean viewers and consumers all the more.

Anyone find any stories on who the original target for this ad was?

King Baeksu said...

Just came across this wire report:

Body of Ad Agency President Found in Suwon Motel"

Local police have confirmed that the body of Kim Chi-ji was found yesterday in a luxury motel in the popular "entertainment" district of Ingye-dong in Northern Suwon.

According to investigators, a maid discovered the body of Mr. Kim at around 12:30pm, after he failed to check out and did not answer repeated calls to his room.

Although he was found in the bathroom hanging from the shower head with a sheet wrapped around his neck, police are treating the case as a homicide since both of his knee caps had been smashed by a blunt-force object.

Mr. Kim, 35, was a rising star in the Korean advertising industry. After working for nearly a decade with several prominent advertising firms, he had recently formed his own agency and was known to have landed a lucrative contract with the "S" chaebol to promote its new line of smartwatches.

Mr. Kim had just returned from Eastern Europe, where he produced and directed a "CF" himself using Western actors in order to save production costs. According to an interview with his wife, he was certain the "CF" would "go viral" due to his innovative "love triangle" concept in an exotic Alpine-skiiing setting.

During the past week, Mr. Kim had spent at least W20 million celebrating with friends at local "entertainment" clubs. "President Kim was so happy and proud of his latest production," explained Mr. L, who had worked with Mr. Kim at Ubiquitous Crayon, as his agency is known.

"S" chaebol, however, was less pleased with Mr. Kim's work, which after being uploaded to YouTube on Dec. 21st had been met with derision by thousands of viewers and dozens of media outlets. Wrote commenter Coolstorybro666, "This commercial looks like it was written by a socially awkward 14 year old who may or may not grow up to be a serial killer."

Commenting under the video was quickly disabled, although advertising experts in the US and UK are wondering why the video has not been deleted to limit further damage.

There are no leads yet in the case. When asked if investigators had any suspects, a police spokesman stated tersely, "None so far, although I would just like to state for the record that 'S' chaebol is a wonderful company that makes great products. I really mean that, too."

King Baeksu said...

LA Times, Time, USA Today, The Independent and many more are all jumping on this story:,0,613242.story#axzz2oZiXZBpW

This ad is shaping up to be a megameme on the order of "Gangnam Style," and has already surpassed two millions views on YouTube in less than a week. How far will it go? It could do billions of dollars of damage to the Samsung "brand." We are literally watching the implosion of South Korea's leading company before our very eyes, at least in the Western world. Quick, get me some popcorn!

King Baeksu said...

Samsung was down 0.5% today on the KOSPI:

Too bad it's not listed on the NYSE, since I bet it would take a big hit when the floor opens there in a few hours after the Christmas holiday. Still, I'd say it'll fall further here in Korea tomorrow, meaning shorting it might be a pretty good short-term trade. On the other hand, you never know with Korea, so "hidden forces" may do everything thing they can to make sure it doesn't fall any further. After all, we're literally talking about the fate of the nation here!

Person of interest said...

King Baeksu,
Your story on 'Kim Chi-ji' and 'Ubiquitous Crayon.'
Do you have a link or is this irony my befuddled mind could not grasp?

King Baeksu said...

"Person of interest," my lawyers are now advising me to refrain from any further commentary or engagement on this subject. They tell me that this is no joking matter, and that I must be very careful from now on.

Sorry, mate.

King Baeksu said...

Share price for Samsung down W12,000 or nearly 1% today:

Since Samsung is presently valued at $200 billion, that represents a loss of some $2 billion in just one day.

And if you look at its stock performance since the release of this video, it very much resembles a downward Alpine slope, lol.

Anyone care to speculate on how much "Jack" is to blame?

King Baeksu said...

Here's another ad featuring "Jack," which is to say, the present East Asian view of the Western male shlub:

King Baeksu said...

Here's another one:

Korean defensive nationalism mutes into paranoid "defensive globalism," i.e, "uri" vs. "aliens" ?

King Baeksu said...

Sorry, typo in last comment: "mutes" should be "mutates." Or "metastasizes," more like.

King Baeksu said...

From The NYT:

"Creative duties for the campaign were shared by R/GA, San Francisco, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, and Cheil Worldwide in Seoul, South Korea (Samsung is based in nearby Suwon). Direction on the video uploaded Wednesday is by Reynald Gresset, with cinematography by Arnaud Potier and special effects by Eight VFX.

"Samsung, which declined to reveal expenditures for the campaign, spent $265 million to advertise Galaxy devices in the United States in the first nine months of 2013, more than the $230 million it spent in all of 2012.

"The videos are not commercials but rather what is known in marketing parlance as branded content, with the soccer players and actors prominently using Galaxy devices. Featured repeatedly is the futuristic looking Galaxy Gear smartwatch, which is worn like a wristwatch and functions as a companion device to a Galaxy smartphone or tablet, and from which James Bond aspirants can make calls, record conversations and shoot photographs and video.

"Hoon Kang, who manages sports marketing efforts at Samsung, said showing devices being used in a dramatic context — even one as far-fetched as athletes training to compete against extraterrestrials — can resonate with consumers more effectively than commercials that demonstrate products more deliberately.

"“Mobile technology is getting more complicated and can be very hard to understand sometimes,” Mr. Kang said in a telephone interview from South Korea. “Through the football videos, we want to show our key functionality and key technology in an emotional way.”

"Samsung recorded its highest worldwide shipment for smartphones to date in the third quarter, 88.4 million, up from 56.9 million in the same period of 2012, an increase of 55.4 percent, according to Strategy Analytics, a research firm. Samsung leads the worldwide smartphone market, with a 35 percent share in the quarter, followed by iPhone maker Apple, with a 13.4 percent share.

"While television viewership and game attendance for professional soccer games in the United States lags many other countries, the future shows promise. Among children from 6 to 12 years old, 17.1 percent play soccer at least once a year, slightly less than those who play basketball (17.6 percent), but more than those who play baseball (13.4 percent), tackle football (4.5 percent), or hockey (1.1 percent), according to a 2013 report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

"Among the 13 players on what Samsung is calling its dream team is one from the United States, Landon Donovan, who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

"The players, who according to Samsung have nearly 200 million followers on Facebook and Twitter, are contractually obligated to post comments about the Galaxy 11 videos, which has lent to several going viral.

"Rob Smiley, the executive creative director of the R/GA San Francisco office, said that some future iterations of the Galaxy campaign, while viewable on devices like iPhones, would be most impressive on Samsung devices, though he declined to more specific.

"“We don’t want to penalize anyone for using another device,” said Mr. Smiley. “That said, we do have plans for some of the content to be more robust and interactive if you view it on Samsung technology.”"

Capsule summary: There's a hostile alien invasion and takeover of the planet, all right, and the ideological function of these ads is to convince us all that the real aliens aren't who we think they are.