My sisters have recently started watching (or rather, re-watching, for the third time) EXO Next Door.
EXO Next Door, for those of you who don’t know, is a Korean drama featuring the members of EXO, a Korean boy band. In the story, EXO K ends up moving next door to Ji Yeon Hee, an oddball EXO fangirl who becomes their housekeeper.
It is a mini-drama so all episodes are under 15 minutes and the entire story is told in 16 episodes. The EXO members play themselves, but otherwise this is an entirely fictitious story line.
This show is one of the most brilliant marketing pieces I have ever seen. It is a fangirl’s dream come true. It has all the merits of a regular drama, with the added benefit of “real people.” It is quite a decent, fun, little drama in its own right. However, from an EXO PR/marketing standpoint, it is genius.
Fans of EXO will love the plot because they already know the band members. It provides plenty of cheesy, funny inside moments that members of EXO-L (EXO’s fan club) will love.
However, the real merit is in how it presents EXO to people who know nothing/or very little about the band. It humanizes them. It manages their image and presents them, quite literally, as the boys next door. It is great brand management and a clever way to increase fame. Chances are, if you enjoy the show you will listen to their music. Even if you don’t like their music, the band and the singers are now familiar to you.
I knew nothing about EXO going into the show but quickly grew to appreciate them. I am not a fangirl. However, I now know who Park Chan Yeol, Do Kyung Soo, Byun Baek Hyun, and Oh Se Hun are, and I take a lively interest when I hear they are coming to the U.S. or come out with a new album. They gained a new “fan.”
The show was really a brilliant way to get fans. I wonder if American bands could pull it off with the same merit. The closest equivalent I can think of that Western artists do are documentaries about themselves – like Bieber’s “Never Say Never” and “Believe” or 1D’s “This Is Us.” (Which rarely attract new fans, IMHO, and seem to be aimed at current ones.)
(My sister just pointed out that Nickelodeon’s “Big Time Rush” might classify as a somewhat similar real band/TV show.)
I don’t know that American culture is quite ready for the fangirl humor of something like EXO Next Door. However, I still think EXO is genius for doing it. I hope we see more like it coming out of Korea, at least!
If you’re looking something tongue in cheek and decidedly quirky but fun, the drama is available at DramaFever – https://www.dramafever.com/drama/4712/EXO_Next_Door/