Tuesday, August 22, 2017

MacGyver returns to Korea as "MacGybeer" in Tsingtao ads


This is actually pretty funny, but it's going to take some background, so stick with me here. 

Jung Sang-hoon as MacGybeer. Image: [술빤광고] 칭따오 요원 맥가이비어 YouTube screencap

MacGyver


If you're a gentleman of a certain age (like I am), you will remember watching a late 1980s TV show called MacGyver. MacGyver could get his way out of all kinds of difficult situations with his cunning genius and practical know-how. MacGyver was also popular in Korea; so much so that what we tend to call a Swiss army knife in English is known as a "MacGyver knife" (맥가이버칼) in Korean. 

Jung Sang-hoon


Meanwhile, there is currently a well-liked actor in Korea named Jung Sang-hoon (정상훈, more about him here and here), who has appeared in a few films, dramas, and travel shows. He also was featured on the Korean version of SNL, where he delighted fans with his mildly un-PC impression of speaking Chinese by repeating phrases like "양꼬치엔 칭따오" over and over. Literally, he just blabbers "Lamb skewers and Tsingtao!" to get a laugh (lamb skewers are thought of in Korea as a Chinese/Mongol originating food, and Tsingtao of course is a Chinese beer). You know this kind of joke. Like when somebody goes "Bonjour si vous play le enchante mon ami" pretending to speak French. Hey, when you're drunk on a Saturday night, this kind of stuff gets laughs. 

Anyway, you'd think this kind of gag would get him in hot water with the censors, or the social justice warriors, or at least with the Chinese, right? Nobody likes this offensive content, especially in today's charged climate. Right? 

You don't know Asia. 

Tsingtao 


Because it turns out, the Chinese company headquarters of Tsingtao got wind of this, and smelled some creative money-making opportunities. This led to Jung being hired as their local brand spokesman and appearing in a commercial for Tsingtao  that was essentially a parody of his own parody. 

Now what does this have to do with MacGyver? 

Tsingtao recently produced two hilarious commercials featuring him as a parody of the mulleted man himself. In these two "operations" (as he calls them), MacGyver, styled as "MacGybeer" (맥가이비어), uses his cunning problem-solving skills to utilize Tsingtao beer in some way, to eliminate the awkwardness of difficult moments. 

Let's take a look.

MacGybeer's first operation: the hweshik


In the first "operation," a mandatory business dinner (hweshik, 회식) isn't going well. The mood is boring. Everyone is checking their phones, and most don't want to be there. What can solve this problem? MacGybeer comes in, rigs up a Tsingtao-powered disco ball, and it's party time. While drinking responsibly, of course. 

Image: YouTube screencap

Putting the fun in your hweshik. Image: YouTube screencap

Here's the video:


MacGybeer's second operation: the date


In Operation #2, we have a date that's gone wrong. The perfect kiss moment was ruined by a power outage. No problem. MacGybeer appears, rigs up a Tsingtao chandelier, and the moment is saved.  

Putting the fun into your romantic tension. Image: YouTube screencap
Here's the video:


Commercial win


The message is clear. This beer can MacGyver you out of any awkward situation. Order one now!

I think they made a smart move here. Even in Korea, Chinese beer doesn't have the greatest image. By capitalizing on Jang's bit and awkward nostalgia, Tsingtao has gained tremendous exposure, well beyond that of the first ad. Everybody in my office was laughing at this stuff today. These two new ads have hit the viral sweet spot of being hilariously 오글오글. Everything about these ads is oily, greasy, over-the-top, awkward, and funny. I like how he starts randomly humming the song himself. Damn, that really was a great opening theme. I miss that show. 

Anyway, I always think of stuff like this when I hear the old idea that "Koreans aren't creative."

If you're still here, check out another of my favorite Korean commercials:


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