Smart execs ‘working hard’ so Capt. Ri won’t be ‘lonely’

PEOPLE - Joanne Rae M. Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Smart execs âworking hardâ so Capt. Ri wonât be âlonelyâ
Hyun Bin, star of hit K-drama Crash Landing on You, during Simple. Smart ako. campaign shoot in South Korea.

When asked at a Zoom press conference earlier this week if Smart would be getting more Korean endorsers after landing Korean superstar Hyun Bin (Captain Ri Jeong Hyeok in the blockbuster Crash Landing on You) as its latest endorser, Smart president and CEO Al Panlilio said, “Captain Ri is lonely if he’s alone right?”

Which left many Crash Landing on You (CLOY) fans reeling on hopes that the person who would keep Captain Ri from being lonely is Yoon Se-ri, the South Korean heiress played by the actress Son Ye-Jin — the woman he loved in CLOY.

Panlilio is making a smart move by neither confirming nor denying who would keep the captain from being lonely in Smart’s next commercial. All he told this writer was, “We are working on it. To make people happy.”

What a mysteRI! Will his squad or “ducklings” (i.e., Sergeant Major Pyo Chi Soo, Staff Sergeant Park Kwang Beom, Soldier Kim Joo Muk, Junior Soldier Keum Eun Dong) be the ones who will be keeping Captain Ri company in a future Smart commercial?

Or will it be Captain Ri’s beloved Yoon Se-ri? Most CLOY fans crash landed hard on the 16-episode, cross-border romance between a North Korean army officer and a South Korean heiress because of the onscreen — and reportedly offscreen — chemistry between the two actors who portrayed them. They’ve been baptized  as both the #BinJin couple and the #RiRi couple and have social media sites dedicated solely to the pursuit of a real-life happy ending for them.

Shell retailer and a certified “worshipper in the Church of CLOY” Patricia Sotto describes the #BinJin chemistry as “virtually incomparable to any on-screen couple in recent history.”

“What makes them so special together is their duality; the connection is palpable and undeniably electric — but also wholesome, comforting, and heart-achingly sweet. Yes, their honey-glazed gazes and (too-few) kisses thrill us and make us melt like hot fudge on a sundae.”

But all Panlilio is confirming for now is that aside from the digital press conference being a first for Smart, “tapping the South Korean superstar to be the face of the brand is also new for a local telecomm company.”


Nice, down-to-earth

Panlilio, who revealed his wife Angela is also a CLOY fan, said he was able to talk via Zoom to Hyun Bin during the mid-May shoot of the commercial in Korea, which took place despite COVID-19. Thus, you could see the production team in masks.

“We were able to talk for not very long, maybe not even three minutes. He seemed very nice, very down to earth. Of course, he found it hard (to speak) in English but he said thank you for being chosen as our endorser. And you see how smart he is — no pun intended. Basically, he tried to learn Tagalog in one day, he said ‘Mahal ko kayo.’ It was well done. He was very, very professional.”

Panlilio also RI-vealed that the Simple. Smart ako. campaign with Hyun Bin is Smart’s biggest campaign so far. Smart, he said, once had basketball great Kevin Durant promoting pre-paid SmartBro. According to Panlilio, a basketball fan himself,  the Hyun Bin campaign is different because it’s a full thematic campaign built around the bedimpled Korean actor.

“I think this is the first time and we’re very happy that it’s Hyun Bin. So, we’re lucky to get him, I think this is the biggest campaign we had for Smart.”

And Smart has quoted Hyun Bin, a university graduate, as saying, “Filipinos are some of the warmest fans in the world, and I am thankful to Smart for giving me a way to reach out to everyone in the Philippines. Indeed, Smart has brought us closer than ever.”

Smart SVP and head of consumer wireless Jane Basas said Smart is simply happy with having Hyun Bin as their newest endorser, admitting he is a “priceless” investment.

“But I will say this...that signing him up to talk about our message of Smart Giga Life and I guess, Simple. Smart ako, and the impact that he’s had, not just talking about the message effectively, but actually in delighting our customers and making our customers and subscribers happy during these times, actually make him a very, very a priceless investment. So we’re very, very happy,” she said.

“I am a personal fan,” Jane added. “CLOY was actually the first K-drama that I watched. And my boss, Mr. Al Panlilio was made to watch CLOY by his wife, Angela, who’s also a fan. Even MVP is a fan. So I think getting Hyun Bin was something that’s natural for us. It would have been crazy for us not to do it.”

For his part, Smart VP for corporate marketing and strategy, Lloyd Manaloto, said about the shoot, “We needed to do it quickly, we only had a specific amount of time, but they were very professional. What’s surprising is just like his character Captain Ri, he and his team didn’t make a lot of fuss. They would tell us if it’s doable or not, and obviously they were working with  obvious diligence and were very professional.

“When we shot, we did the whole thing in one day, so we did photography at about 1 p.m., finished at about 6 p.m. with photography, just in time to catch the sunset scene. And from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., we shot the TVC and the videos. So imagine doing a complex ad in that time frame. So it’s a team that’s quite professional and diligent. It’s easy to work with them.”

Panlilio said getting Hyun Bin was historic in more ways than one. “We shall look back to this day when we committed to simplicity. We shall look back on this moment where we embraced the idea that keeping our customers’ lives as simple as possible as they progress in this world, was a good thing – when we said, Simple. Smart ako!”

Especially when the Captain said it, too.

(You may e-mail me at [email protected]. Follow me on Instagram @joanneraeramirez.)

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