Blackpink fans in Thailand, beware. If you’ve seen images of Lisa’s latest advertising campaign for whisky brand Chivas Regal and wanted to repost them (or God forbid, you already did), think again. It may cost you close to US$15,000 (S$20,000) and land you in jail for a year.
Lisa recently signed as Chivas Regal’s first female ambassador in Asia. The partnership has been met with fanfare but also a fair amount of controversy, owing to Lisa’s Thai background and Thailand’s ban on all forms of alcohol advertising.
Under section 32 of Thailand’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Act (2008), alcoholic beverages must not be advertised in a way that promotes their consumption. Under this act, posting or reposting images of alcoholic beverages online can result in a fine of up to 500,000 baht (S$20,000) and/or up to one year in prison. As a result, sharing Lisa’s Chivas Regal adverts in Thailand is considered to be illegal.
“Should she live in Thailand right now, Lisa won’t be able to accept [the Chivas Regal role] as its presenter,” says beer activist turned politician Taopiphop Limjittrakorn, of Thailand’s Move Forward Party.
According to local media outlets, Thailand’s Department of Disease Control, which falls under the Ministry of Public Health, has assigned the Alcohol Control Committee (OACC) to investigate any offenders who have posted or shared images of Lisa’s advertisements.
That means internet users in Thailand that have responded positively to Lisa’s new ambassadorship are already in the crosshairs of the law. However, it’s unlikely that Lisa herself will face consequences, as she is based in South Korea and the provisions do not apply to advertisements broadcast from outside the country.
While K-pop stars and bands have historically promoted alcohol brands – fellow Blackpink member Jennie is the face of soju brand Chum-Churum and BTS has promoted the Korean beer brand Kloud – the controversy surrounding Lisa’s adverts has led to discussions among Thai internet users, politicians and those in the alcohol industry.
Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, secretary general of the Progressive Movement political party, offered his thoughts on his Facebook page.
“Section 32’s main purpose is to prohibit alcohol advertising, but there’s a loophole which allows [marketing] from outside the Kingdom,” Saengkanokkul writes, referring to Thailand. “Is Blackpink’s Lisa the example of this legal loophole?”
Under the Alcohol Beverage Control Act, manufacturers can only run advertisements with the intention of providing information beneficial to society, and cannot include images of the alcoholic beverage or its packaging, only an image of its logo or that of the manufacturer.
As a result, a number of Thailand’s alcoholic beverage brands have circumvented the law by running advertisements abroad instead of in their home country.
Saengkanokkul goes on to criticise the act in his post, noting that it restricts rights and liberties beyond reason and that the penalty for the offence is too high. In comparison, traffic fines in Thailand are capped at 1,000 baht.
Born Lalisa Manobal, Lisa grew up in Thailand before passing her audition at Korean agency YG Entertainment at the age of 13. Afterwards, she moved to Korea to pursue her entertainment career, and debuted with Blackpink in 2016.
Now, the K-pop star is a successful solo act as well – music and performance videos of Lisa’s two solo singles Lalisa and Money have each gained over 450 million views on YouTube, and her Instagram boasts 75 million followers, making her the most followed K-pop star on the social media platform.
She still often pays tribute to her Thai heritage and has maintained a strong fan base in her home country – her Lalisa music video in particular features dance moves, costumes and sets that show clear Thai influence.
Lisa’s widespread global appeal has led to a series of ambassadorships with brands and luxury fashion houses, including Celine, Bulgari and Mac. Chivas Regal is the just latest brand to join the list, and their newest “I Rise, We Rise” campaign highlights Lisa’s journey to success.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.