MANILA — Now it can be said: the separate contracts of K-drama superstars Son Ye-jin and Hyun Bin with local telecom giant Smart both include a visit to the Philippines.
But does that mean they will meet Filipino fans together?
There are layers of considerations, Smart executives said, during a recent virtual media conference launching Son Ye-jin as the brand’s latest endorser.
“The contract, similar to Hyun Bin’s, is valid for a year,” said Jane Basas, head of consumer wireless business. “And that includes a visit to the Philippines where she’s supposed to do three events with us.”
“It will be up to the boss whether we’ll bring them both together, in one event. I wont’ tease,” Basas quipped, triggering laughter. “It depends on their schedule, because they’re part of two separate management teams.”
The “boss,” Smart president and CEO Alfredo Panlilio, responded, “We’ll have to sync their calendars.”
That would only be possible once the coronavirus pandemic has eased, public affairs head Ramon Isberto noted.
“The short answer to that is that we still have to work it out. You know the condition these days is difficult and complicated. We have to plan that very carefully,” he said.
“I can assure you that Son Ye-jin really wants to come here. She’s been here and she would like to come back.”
Son Ye-jin, who once visited Palawan “10 years ago,” did say in a recorded interview that she had hoped to even shoot her ad in the Philippines, as opposed to the remote arrangement between the Filipino group and a partner production outfit in South Korea.
“It’s just so sad that I could not come to see all the fans in person, but I’m always very thankful and happy to be able to meet them in this way,” Son Ye-jin said in Korean.
3RD AD WITH BOTH?
The introduction of the “Crash Landing On You” stars as separate Smart endorsers — Hyun Bin for Gigalife, and Son Ye-jin for Signature — happened within months of each other.
Hyun Bin’s campaign was launched in June, while Son Ye-jin’s was unveiled in the first week of August. The similarities were visible: both ads showed them speeding on a highway, with Hyun Bin in a sports car and Son Ye-jin riding a Ducati bike.
The ending of Son Ye-jin’s ad hinted at a meeting with Hyun Bin, as a sports car pulled over beside her, leading to a view of the vehicles racing through the city. The sight prompted fans to speculate that a third ad showing them together would follow.
Smart executives were tight-lipped on that prospect, but did clarify that the two ads so far were filmed separately.
Basas laid out the timeline, saying: “It was in the first week of June when we launched Hyun Bin, then we reached out to her management team. The second and third week of June were spent negotiating the terms of the contract, and we actually signed her up, fourth week of June.”
The first two weeks of July, Basas recalled, were a “back and forth” between the Manila and Seoul teams to finalize the storyboard of the campaign. That included Son Ye-jin’s request to be given a copy of the storyboard, so she could determine whether she can deliver all the lines in English, or rely on a voiceover to complete the message in the final ad.
“I’ll do this,” Basas recounted Son Ye-jin as saying, which meant she could voice the commercial 100%.
The actual shoot happened on July 16, with weeks still away from its intended debut. But only two days later, fans inadvertently got a hint of the top-secret deal.
“We knew that she loved the campaign, because the character that she portrays — a very strong woman, a badass chick — is very different from her prior endorsements,” Basas said, mentioning Son Ye-jin’s experience riding the Ducati bike.
“We knew how much she loved it because two days after the shoot, she unexpectedly Instagrammed a video of the commercial in her personal Instagram account. We wanted to keep it confidential for the fans, but the fans from Korea, from the Philippines picked it up. We just had to ride that. We couldn’t keep it a secret any longer.”
On August 3, Son Ye-jin Signature ad was officially released, trending almost instantly on social media.
‘NOTHING SPECIAL ABOUT ME’
Throughout the negotiations up until the shoot, Son Ye-jin was “warm” and “genuine,” Smart executives said as they recalled their Zoom call with the actress.
“In fact, she was very welcoming of us,” Isberto said. “It was in the middle of the shoot and she was doing a lot of things, but she took time to take a call from us… She doesn’t seem to know that she’s very popular. She’s very humble. She spent time with us.”
Son Ye-jin’s unassuming demeanor was apparent in her recorded interview, where she was asked at one point to describe herself behind the cameras.
“There’s nothing special about me,” she said. In front of the camera, I’m always in character with the given role, so I tend to stick to it. But behind the camera, I think I’m just ordinary. I’m the same person as you guys.”
Despite being regarded as a K-drama superstar with an international following, Son Ye-jin said she isn’t certain whether to consider herself successful, when asked for her advice to those aspiring to pursue a similar career.
“Well, I am not sure if I’ve already succeeded, but I think young people who just started not only in acting but also in other fields, are going to be so scared and experience hardships. [It’s the] same as my experience,” she said.
“But it helps that I’ve always set a goal, and even if the reality is not close to that goal, just try your best to imagine yourself in that future, and make the best out of everything. Then, think of it as step closer to your dreams. Keep fighting!”