Today marks the fifth anniversary of BTS. The group debuted on 12th June, 2013. Over the last five years, the boys have seen the worst and the best of the times. But what did not change was their commitment to represent youth and their perseverance to stand out from the crowd. Today, BTS are truly an MC of youth and the same is acknowledged by their fans.
ARMYs around the world, have been preparing for the anniversary celebrations. This time, British fans too decided to do something special. The UK fans got together to fundraise the Billboard project.
The fandom were successful in raising the amount to set up the Billboard ahead of group’s anniversary. If you live in London, you can find it on Vauxhall Station in South London, above Nando’s.
CelebMix talked to Lydia O’Neill about the project and discussed why did the fans decide to opt for a Billboard to celebrate the occasion:
How did you guys come up with the idea for the Billboard?
We got the idea from Korean fans. It’s very common in K-pop for fans to buy advertising in stations, subways and on buses to celebrate the anniversaries of groups or individual members’ birthdays. There have even been ads run in Times Square in New York paid for by fans.
Today, a lot of celebration and promotion is done online. Why did you decide to opt for a “Billboard” to spread the message?
We chose to have a physical billboard because it gives ARMYs (BTS fans) something to actually go to. We held a meet-up to go with it and had nearly 300 fans attending throughout the day. It’s also a good way of getting BTS exposure to the general public. K-pop fans see promoting and supporting their group as like their job. That’s why when BTS fans are voting for Western awards we tend to wipe out the competition, because we’re very organised and we do this kind of thing on a daily basis.
What kind of challenges did you face while organising the project?
The biggest challenge was raising the money. It costs about £3000 to run an ad like that, and there are also payment deadlines for the various instalments that we have to keep to. We have about 20k followers on our Twitter account (@BTSUKUNITE) but we also partnered with another account (@BANGTANUK) and they have a bigger reach than us, so that helped get the message out. This was our second year running a billboard ad for their anniversary so we know a bit more now about the best ways to run a campaign like this, but it was still difficult. People often think we must be some kind of professionals or a business to be making things like this happen but we’re not, we’re just normal fans. It’s a very steep learning curve.
How has been the response of the people encountering the Billboard?
In terms of fans, they’re obviously very excited to see it. BTS have a devoted fandom here (for example their two dates at the O2 recently sold out in a matter of minutes and people are now paying up to £10,000 to get tickets off resellers) but we don’t hear about BTS a lot generally and it’s a struggle to even get them radio play. So it’s amazing to see them on a big billboard. As for the general public, we do see people looking a bit confused when they walk past and see us all gathering around an advert, but I hope it’ll inspire them to look up BTS and give them a chance.
What do BTS mean to you?
On a personal level, I would honestly say BTS saved my life and I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them and ARMY (the BTS fandom). I have really severe mental health problems and the last few years have been particularly awful with my life completely falling apart.q I don’t know how I would have done it without them. Even though BTS songs are in Korean, I make an effort to make sure I understand them, and their lyrics inspire me because they talk about things like mental health and social prejudice. BTS write and produce their own songs and it’s very important to them that they help people with their music. The whole theme of this era is ‘Love Yourself’ and they have even partnered with UNICEF to raise money as part of that from album and merchandise sales.
What motivated you to become their fan?
I became a fan in 2015. I stumbled across them on YouTube and I was hooked straight away. I didn’t know anything about K-pop then and it fascinated me seeing the Korean fans with their light sticks (Korean groups each have their own light stick that fans bring to their concerts. The BTS one is called an ARMY bomb) and doing their fan chants (this is like the part of the song that the fans do. Kind of like being cheerleaders.) Then I started looking into BTS lyrics and the theories behind the symbolism in their music videos and I was hooked.
If you had to give a message to the group, what would you want to say?
If I had one message for BTS, it would just be thank you. Like I said, they saved my life and gave me almost all my closest friends. I’m not the kind of fan who feels like I have to meet them or get anything back personally, because I feel like they do more than enough already. But I would just like to let them know what they’ve done for me, so I’m writing a letter to send each of them, which is hard because there are seven members and it means writing in Korean! It’ll probably take me a few weeks to do the translations and handwriting all the letters because my Korean writing is still pretty rusty, but I want them to know how much they’ve helped me. And considering how hard they work for us it’s not much in comparison for me to make the effort to write in their language.
What else do you plan to do for their 5th Anniversary?
We’ve already had our meet-up so in the UK our main celebrations are over. On the actual anniversary BTS are holding a little concert/party in Korea for fans so I’ll be watching that online. I know we’ll be trending some stuff on Twitter too. With the fandom being so big these days it’s pretty easy for us to trend worldwide, which is nice because we know that BTS will get to see it. They talk a lot about how we give them energy to keep going when it’s hard for them, so it’s important to us that they always know we’re here supporting them even if we’re thousands of miles away.
How do you plan to celebrate BTS’ 5th Anniversary? Share your thoughts via tweet @CelebMix.