Bebo lines up brands for third edition of Sofia’s Diary

Bebo is approaching brands and agencies to drum up advertising for the third series of its hit cross-platform drama Sofia’s Diary, which goes into production this month.

The AOL-owned social networking giant is keen to build on the success of the previous two series, which have seen the Sofia’s Diary profile page viewed 2.45m times since March 2008 and the web programme extended onto TV via the Fiver channel.

Rights holder Sony Pictures Television International and production agency BeActive are set to go into production on the latest series this month.

Media agencies told new media age that Bebo is looking to secure early investment from brands to ensure advertisers’ products and services can be integrated into the storyline.

Brands including Golddigga, Paramount Pictures, Sure Girl, Pearl Drops and Nair are some of the advertisers which have been involved with the previous series of Sofia’s Diary. The drive is being led by Bebo UK sales manager Dominic Tillson.

Media agency MEC Interaction confirmed it’s in talks with the social network, following involvement in last year’s series via its client Paramount Pictures. Teen comedy film Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging was integrated into the Sofia’s Diary plot for two episodes, with the movie’s lead character, Georgia Nicolson, incorporated into the plotline of the online drama via her Bebo profile. This resulted in 20,000 people adding her as a friend.

Carl Read, account director at MEC Interaction, said, “The Paramount campaign worked really well because it was fully integrated.”

He said interactive web series can be valuable investments for brands if the audiences can be guaranteed, as is the case with Sofia’s Diary.

“It has potential if the numbers stack up. The brand fit also has to be perfect, if it’s shoe-horned in it can stick out like a sore thumb.”

Neale Hunt, MD of Media Therapy – the agency which represents Church & Dwight, the company which owns brands such as Pearl Drops and Nair – said it had been approached by Bebo but that it wouldn’t be investing in the third series.

Ian Maude, analyst for Enders, said online TV formats such as Sofia’s Diary could be valuable to advertisers if they can attract large audiences.

“The value in any property for advertisers boils down to how many people in the target market can be reached,” he said. “Can you attract an audience that appeals to advertisers in terms of demographic or numbers?”

Series three of Sofia’s Diary is expected to follow the format of previous series, unfolding as a multi-media narrative via Bebo through online webisodes and profile pages.

The audience will be able to engage in one-to-one conversations with individual characters and interact with the show’s makers, auditioning for roles, giving feedback on episodes, and even shaping character and plot development.

A Five spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the broadcaster intends to show the new series.

The third series of Sofia’s Diary comes as increasing numbers of broadcasters and TV production companies line up to interact with audiences via social networks.

The charge has been led by the success of online TV formats such as Sofia’s Diary, KateModern, Kirill, The Gap Year and LonelyGirl 15, the show that kicked off the format.

Peter Cowley, director of interactive at Endemol said, “Social media is now extremely important for broadcasters because of the size of the audiences revolving around Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.”

Bebo spokeswoman Sarah Gavin denied the third series of Sofia’s Diary was in production, but Sony Pictures Television International confirmed it was going ahead.

Quick Facts

– Sofia’s Diary launched on Bebo on 12 March 2008.

– The first episode attracted 305,000 views in the first 24 hours, rising to 2.5m hits in the first week online.

– Before the start of the second series, Bebo said the online series had experienced 12.9m interactions.

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