Gender Advertisements: What, boys can drink girly drinks now?

Regularly criticizing food and drink companies for marketing their products so differently to either sex, or even exclusively just to one, then I’m surprised to find I have mixed feelings about the news that one company has actually chosen to stop doing so for a change: Hyundai Pharm (현대약픔), whose Miero Fiber (미에로화이바) “diet drink” for women was ironically the first of its kind in Korea, but for which a new campaign has been launched featuring Lee Joon (이준), a member of boy band MBLAQ (엠블랙), and Kwak Min-jung (곽민정), a figure skater:

제 2의 비라 불리며 초콜릿 복근으로 팬들의 마음을 사로잡고 있는 엠블랙 이준과 밴쿠버 동계올림픽에서 괄목할만한 성장으로 모두를 놀라게 한, 제2의 피겨여왕을 꿈꾸는 피겨스케이팅 선수 곽민정, 이 두 사람이 만난다면 어떤 모습일까?

엠블랙 이준과 곽민정 선수가 기능성 식이섬유 음료의 대표 주자인 현대약품 미에로화이바의 새모델로 발탁됐다.

Called the second Rain (비), and gaining a lot of fans through his chocolate abs, Lee Joon of MBLAQ is with Kwak Min-jung, a figure skater who startled everyone with her remarkable growth as a skater at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and who dreams of becoming the second figure skating queen [after Kim Yuna (김연아)]. What are they doing meeting together?

Lee Joon of MBLAQ and Kwak Min-jung the skilled athlete have been chosen as the representatives of the diet fiber drink Miero Fiber by producers Hyundai Pharm.

미에로화이바는 1989년에 출시되어 20년 넘게 많은 사람들의 사랑을 받아온 국내 최초의 식이섬유 기능성 음료로, 그 동안 이소라, 김혜수, 박민영, 고아라, 신민아 등 미에로화이바를 거쳐 간 여자 연예인들은 최고의 인기를 구사한다는 소문을 낳을 만큼, S라인 여자 연예인들의 매력이 돋보이는 CF를 선보여왔다.

이에 이준과 곽민정 선수의 모델 발탁이 더욱 신선할 것이라는 것이 현대약품 측의 설명. 서로 다른 분야에서 떠오르는 신예로 맹활약 중인 이 두 사람은 이번 CF를 통해 2010년, 모두가 부러워하는 워너비 몸짱으로 등극할 예정이라고.

Miero Fiber has received a lot of love since being launched as the first diet drink in Korea in 1989, and indeed [previously unknown] female entertainers that have showed off their S-lines and attractiveness in commercials for it have included the likes of Lee So-ra, Kim Hye-su, Park Min-young, Go-ara, and Shin Min-a, to the extent that there is a rumor that appearing in one is very helpful for a female entertainer’s career!

James – That is probably just the typical hyperbole of Korean news stories, but then I did personally first learn of Shin Min-a in 2000 and Go-ara in 2006 through their Meiro Fiber commercials:

Lee Joon and Kwak Min-jung were chosen by Hyundai Pharm because the company wanted a strong, fresh image, and because both are rising stars in their respective fields. It is hoped that through this commercial, in 2010 many people will become jealous of them and also try to get good bodies.

현대약품 관계자는 “이준과 곽민정 의 건강미와 무한한 가능성에 주목했다”며 “이준의 강하고 섹시한 이미지와 곽민정 선수의 건강하고 귀여운 매력을 통해 미에로화이바가 상징하는 건강한 아름다움의 컨셉이 효과적으로 전달될 것”이라며 새로운 모델에 대한 기대감을 선보였다.

한편, 지난 달 세계선수권대회를 마치고 귀국한 곽민정 은 국내에서 한 달간 머물며 휴식을 취한 뒤 다시 캐나다 토론토로 돌아가 오서코치와 함께 훈련에 전념할 계획이며, 이준은 최근 짧은 헤어스타일로 변신해 스승인 비와 붕어빵 외모로 화제를 일으키며 본격적인 컴백에 대한 팬들의 기대감이 한껏 고조되고 있다.

According to a Hyundai Pharm spokesperson, “It has often been remarked that Lee Joon and Kwak Min-jung both have a kind of healthy beauty and unlimited potential,” and that “with Lee Joon’s strong and sexy image and Kwak Min-jung’s healthy and cute one, they will be effective as symbols of Miero Fiber’s healthy and beautiful concept,” which is why they were chosen as new models and why Hyundai Pharm has high expectations of them.

In the meantime, after the 2010 World Figure Skating Championships concluded last month, Kwak Min-jung returned to Korea for a month of rest, but has since returned to Toronto in Canada to concentrate on training with coach Brian Orser, while Lee-Joon has recently changed his hairstyle to look almost like a twin of his mentor Rain, raising a lot of interest and expectations among fans as to what the theme of MBLAQ’s comeback will be. (source)

Granted, not an explicit admission that Hyundai Pharm now hopes to sell to men what it previously wanted consumers to believe was only for women. But that message is pretty clear in the commercial itself:

언니만큼 잘하고싶어요. 라인도 신경써야죠.

Like my older sister [Kim Yuna], I want to do well. I also have to pay attention to my S-line, yes?

마시는것도 관리해야죠. 형! 딱 기다려!

I too have to think about what I drink. Older brother [Rain]! Just you wait for me!

내일이 기다려집니다. 미에로 화이버.

We can’t wait for tomorrow. Miero Fiber.

And on that note, it’s a pity that, yet again, athletes that have gained great bodies through exercise are endorsing a product that encourages people to think that merely slugging a diet drink is all that is required. But I do think that selling it to both sexes is still a positive step: after all, as I discuss here, unfortunately it is by no means an exaggeration to say that there is a widespread belief among Korean women that “obtaining the perfect body is possible provided one merely buys and passively uses, applies or digests various products,” and one which strangely coexists alongside a belief by men that they must do active exercise instead. Introduce the notion that men and women can obtain their desired bodies through the same means however, and you begin to challenge that false dichotomy.

On the other hand, it is a diet drink being sold, and so there is also the possibility that ads like these will simply encourage men to forgo exercise in favor of dieting (and so on) also. Which do you think is the more likely scenario?

Either way, Korean energy drinks are off to a good start!


6 thoughts on “Gender Advertisements: What, boys can drink girly drinks now?

    1. Agreed, and although I admit this contradicts what I wrote in the text last night, I realize now that she’s a strange choice for selling something based on having a good body too: not because she’s thin and has small breasts of course, but because she clearly still has some developing to do (she’s only 16). Choosing her then, seems to have been yet another case of star endorsement overriding all other considerations.


  1. A point of interest and possibly why these particular celebrities were chosen to contrast each other: Lee Joon was a ballet dancer for many years. He left a ballet major in college to pursue his idol career.


  2. The top pic, similar to many in Asia, has way overused the enhancing power of photoshop, making it look very over white and somewhat surreal.


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