Just watching the video for Korean artist Psy's "Oppa Gangnam Style" is not going to cut it — you have to learn the dance and post your version online. That's helped the K-Pop video — with its catchy, pony-riding, wrist-crossing, hip-dangling dance — become a major global phenomenon.
The original video is now clocking in over 166 million views on YouTube, and has sparked hundreds, if not thousands, of Gangnam Style parodies and giving the cottage industry in Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" spoofs a run for the money.
Now, marketers are starting to take notice. In what might be the first instance of product placement in a Gangnam parody, Thai airline Nok Air has popped up in local spoof "Kamnam Style."
The spoof by artist Cutto is called "Kamnan Style" with "Kanman" the Thai word for a governing official at the "tambon" (subdistrict) level. In the convention of Gangnam spoofs, "Kanman Style" largely follows the set up and coordination of the original. But the second half of the video features Cutto and his phalanx of dancers on, and in, a Nok Air airplane. The brand's logo is clearly visible.
Established in 2004, the brand took the name Nok Air in 2006. The low cost carrier, under Thai Airways International, is currently planning a 2013 IPO.
Nok Air reportedly agreed to allow Cutto and team to film inside and around Nok Air aircraft and it's clear why. The "Kamnan Style" spoof has pulled in somewhere over 2 million views on Youtube and other video channels. But also, Nok Air — which operates aircraft painted almost like characters from the game Angry Birds — is a youthful, affordable operation with the bulk of its traffic flying domestically. And what could be more domestic than "Kamnan Style," a spoof in Thai with a lot of Thailand-centered inside jokes? Noteably, Kamnan singer Cutto performed at the Nok Air Smile Concert Phuket in 2011.
Nok Air isn't the only brand to be drawn to the addictive power of the Gangnam. Numerous commercial interests have begun leveraging Psy's infectious song to draw attention to themselves and demonstrate a sense of humor. Ellen DeGeneres brought the Korean pop star on her talk show to teach Britney Spears the horse dance for a ratings and YouTube (more than 10M views) boost:
Saatchi & Saatchi Phillipines did a version promoting its office culture.
Then there was the Major League Baseball team Washington Nationals, whose "Racing Presidents" did Gangnam style at a one game. Oppo Lincoln Style!
That was no surprise though as a few days earlier Fox and MLB used the song to promote the All Star Game.
But easily the most successful brand to latch on and elevate itself via Gangnam has been the University of Oregon. In a sensational video spoof, Oregon's mascot duck cavorts around the campus with cheerleaders to the Gangnam beat. The video has 3.78 million views and tens of thousands more views on other account posts of the video. The population of the entire state of Oregon: 3.87 million.
The Univ. of Oregon's success with Gangnam mirrors what Brigham Young University accomplished when it released an incredible parody of the Old Spice Guy commercial in order to plug one of its libraries. Of course, P&G's Old Spice Guy — a commercial itself — gave birth to a litany of copycats, some better than others.