June 24, 2007
Prom Queen and LonelyGirl15: Spinoffs and Product Integration

A couple of interesting news notes surrounding Web-only series that I thought I would pass along this weekend. Two of the most talked-about online Webisode series is the grassroots popularity of LonelyGirl15 and the promotion-driven Prom Queen.

The two series have both made interesting new moves in the past week, both worth highlighting.

For Prom Queen, the Michael Eisner-produced show will soon be launching into a spinofff series entitled Prom Queen: Summer Heat, which will start in August and run for three weeks in a series of 15 two-minute episodes. The idea will be to pick up the story following the prom night culmination of the narrative by following the lead characters to Mexico during their summer.

I wrote about the launch of the series back in April. The original plan was for 80 90-second Webisodes. The series particularly benefitted through deals with YouTube and MySpace, including a special deal with MySpace to show a day early on the social networking site, with the idea of building interactivity into the series by having paes for characters and by allowing users to post episodes on their own MySpace pages.

At the time, I wrote:

With the MySpace users getting the first look at Prom Queen, and with MySpace promoting the series to its users, Eisner has the groundwork in place for a community to build around the content--if the content connects with the audience, of course. A community is also in place to spread the word quickly about why the series isn't worth watching.

Meanwhile, LonelyGirl15 got a major boost funding-wise due to striking a product integration deal with Neutrogena, as a fictional scientist from the health and beauty product company will appear in a series of episodes to help the Lonelygirl characters battle "The Order."

While the financial benefit is obvious, such blatant product integration raises interesting questions for fans of the show. Will they accept such a blatant use of integrating a brand? Knowing that the Lonelygirl15 creators had been somewhat cautious regarding the processes by which they might monetize the show, it will possibly be instructive to see how this decision plays out.

The LonelyGirl spinoff KateModern was planned to be funded particularly through product placement. I wrote about this in April, after an L.A. Times story focused on the European social networking site, Bebo. I wrote:

Last month, Lonelygirl15 featured product placement for the first time, featuring the Icebreaker's Sours Gum (owned by Hershey) in an episode. Netburn quotes the creators as saying, "To not integrate brands would be weird. The fact that we have to crop out logos and keep things out of the frames is awkward. To do something like have a live event at a store and a piece of plot unfolds there, I find that creatively liberating." The idea is to use KateModern to prove that product placement works well for both viewers and advertisers when done well.

KateModern is set to launch next month.