You might have seen advertisements on Instagram Story that look like they aren’t meant to sell anything but just to say “Happy Birthday” to someone. You might have wonder who this person with fabulous hair, outrageous fashion, and so much makeup is.
Youth culture in Thailand and worldwide is fast-moving.
Teenagers and young adults grow up with the world in the palm of our hands. Fast connection, global reach, pop culture, and instant gratification; this is our world.
I”m a 19-year-old student at Chulalongkorn University, studying Language and Culture, and I would like to offer you all a look into youth culture.
Currently, there is a trend of celebrating pop idol’s birthday by buying Instagram advertisements to spread an artwork or a short video clip. These pop idols are mainly Koreans but also include other Asian pop idols.
These advertisements depict an idol’s captivating posture and a happy birthday message with the idol’s social media account. They appear in our Instagram Story as a sponsored post.
The frequency of seeing an advertisement depends on several factors. They include how often we engage in posts about pop idols and how much the creator of the advertisement pays to promote it. If it’s a hefty sum of money, like over 10,000 baht, the target group can be expanded to include Instagram users who barely know about pop idols.
The trend began around last year among international K-pop fans.
Thai K-pop fans have also fully embraced the trend and have made several creative designs for birthday advertisements. They would spend up to 10,000 baht to let other Instagram users know that it’s their idol’s birthday.
These advertisements are paid for by fans, not by companies or agencies. Also, they are designed by fans.
But Instagram birthdays are the cheaper option. For years, fans have been buying offline advertisements, such as a board at an MRT Subway Station or an LED screen at MBK Shopping Mall, to display happy birthday wishes to their favorite idols.
It costs around 20,000 to 50,000 baht for the former and 50,000 baht for the latter.
TAEYONG THAILAND (@TAEYONG_TH) is the fanbase supporting Taeyong Lee, a member of the South Korean band NCT and SuperM, whose birthday is on 1 July. This is what they said:
“The IG story ads made our birthday project a success. We met our goals of celebrating the birthday, giving us fans a chance to enjoy the special time together and letting fans of other idols and non-fans get to know the idol.”
They spent around 1,000 baht.
WANGYIBO THAIFANS (@WYBthaifans) is the fanbase of Yibo Wang. Yibo is a Chinese pop idol; he’s a singer and actor. His birthday was on 5 August.
Yibo’s Thai fans not only ran an Instagram birthday advertisement, but they also paid for a board at the MRT Station.
In their Instagram birthday campaign, they targeted users in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
“The responses we got were impressive, and the number of views exceeded our expectations.”
They spent approximately 70,000 baht for the MRT board and almost 10,000 baht for the Instagram advertisement.
Dr. Seung Soo Kim is a media lecturer at Chulalongkorn University.
“The [offline] ‘birthday project’ was initiated by the band TVXQ’s fan club in Korea many years ago,” he said.
Dr. Kim explained that other fandoms then imitated the activity, and the trend has gone global. On the one hand, it reflects an intimate relationship between the idol and fans. On the other hand, it is about the idol’s media exposure.
“The K-pop industry is highly competitive, so for idols to survive, they need to appear in the media continually. Therefore, publicizing the idol’s image is one of the ways fans can support their idol.”
“We might not understand how they feel or how they interact with each other when participating in such activity; unless we become a part of it. It’s a matter of belonging to a community.”