Greg Goodfried, one of the creators of scripted video blog Lonelygirl15, has a message for the advertising community: Bree, the show's moon-faced and home-schooled main character, will hawk your wares.
"Bree is a fictional character, but she lives in the real world," Goodfried told ClickZ. "She interacts with products on a daily basis. She has to use a cell phone. She has to drive a car."
Goodfried and Creative Artists Agency, the talent agency representing Lonelygirl15, have recently begun shopping the episodic show around Madison Avenue. They're seeking to cut ad deals for the breakout Web hit which for a few weeks last summer became mandatory viewing for Web video addicts and a topic of fascination for media columnists everywhere.
Goodfried and CAA will offer advertisers a range of methods to reach its audience, including banners and sponsorships on Lonelygirl15.com; but the big focus is on product placement. That's because LG15's main distribution channel is YouTube, which doesn't share ad revenue with content creators. Hence, storyline tie-ins are the show's only recourse to ad revenue since the majority of fans are watching the show on YouTube.
A recent LG15 effort involved a product placement of sorts. A video featured Lonelygirl15 actress Jessica Rose gazing into a Webcam in trademark fashion; however, this time she spoke about global poverty to promote The United Nations' Stand Up Against Poverty Campaign, rather than gabbing about boy and family troubles. Arranged by Young & Rubicam, it marked the first offshoot project from Web video production company Telegraph Ave. Productions, a new venture Goodfried has launched with LG15 co-inventors Miles Beckett and Mesh Flinders. The firm will develop new series and provide marketing support to generate online buzz for traditional film and TV releases, and may do work for other verticals as well.
LG15's originators are laboring to reduce their reliance on YouTube. After LG15's first wave of popularity, the show's founders began publishing all their videos on Lonelygirl15.com and developing special content there, including forums and chat features. A recent twist in the storyline sought to drive more YouTubers to the Web site. After her hotel room is ransacked, Bree asks her viewers for some assistance. "All the comments you guys have been giving us have been really useful, so I was thinking maybe you guys could help us out. I'll be in the chat rooms tomorrow at lonelygirl15.com at 6:00 pm Pacific Time, so if you want to come on then, you should."
As it turned out, the chat software only allowed 100 participants at a time, but Goodfried said 350,000 visitors flooded the site between 5:00 and 7:00 pm. Six extra chat rooms were set up to relay information from the main room.
Such efforts have helped grow the Web site's audience to approximately 25,000 unique visitors per day. By comparison, each new video gets about 300,000 views on YouTube, where LG15's videos have garnered the most subscriptions on the site.
Videos on Lonelygirl15.com are hosted with Revver.com, which pays a percentage of ad revenue to creators. Additional inventory on the site is sold through ad networks, including ValueClick and BidVertiser.
Going forward, ad products will be more creative. Sponsors will be attached to specific sections of the site, such as the video responses or the forum. A sponsored video contest might take the theme "Proving Science Wrong," a takeoff on Bree's tongue-in-cheek video entries of the same name. "We'd let people upload their own 'proving science wrong' videos. Have it sponsored by, say, HP and [the winning] fan gets a new laptop," said Goodfried.
He suggested technology, clothing and cosmetics advertisers could be good fits for the show's audience, which he characterized as primarily between the ages of 16 to 28 and tech savvy. He added Lonelygirl15 might partner with an ad agency, which could then develop packages and represent its inventory to clients.
Marketing tie-ins with the storyline itself will have a light-touch. "We want to keep it as authentic and keep as much artistic integrity as possible," he said. "We hope we can get the right advertising partners who understand that, who don't want to take our videos and turn them into a three-minute ad for the product, but who really want to embrace what we're doing for what it is, and let it help them get their message across."
Previously an entertainment lawyer, Goodfried handles most of the business tasks involved in LG15's production, such as reaching out to music labels on soundtrack integrations with the show. He characterized director/producer Miles Beckett as "the visionary behind the whole thing."
All in all, Lonelygirl15 remains a scrappy operation. "The cost isn't crazy. We pay the actors. There are some costs for the video, the props, the food. We all left jobs where we were to do this."
He said the payoff was the chance to create something completely new and "100 percent interactive."
"When people talk about Internet video or Webisodes, they're often stuck in this static vision. Every component of our Web sites is used to tell the story. Our characters go to the chat room, use the forum, read our video responses."
On the advertising front, he said, "We just need to find that one right person who gets our vision."
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.