LOS ANGELES — Four youths search frantically for their friend who may be held against her will. A clue leads them to a “mad scientist” who might know her whereabouts. The scientist just happens to work for Neutrogena, a skin care brand owned by Johnson & Johnson.
That’s the scenario that will play out in the next few episodes of the popular Web serial “LonelyGirl15,” which has been experimenting with product placement as a way to pay the bills.
The creators of the show, which has posted more than 200 episodes since launching late last year, signed a deal with the skin, hair and cosmetic line to go a step further than most product placement deals, in which a company’s product is shown or used by a character.
In a series of episodes that will play this summer, Neutrogena will be featured as a “branded character.”
Financial terms were not disclosed.
“This type of integration actually allows us to achieve even more reality for our show,” creators Greg Goodfried and Miles Beckett said. “The most important thing is telling a compelling story. In this instance, the story line comes first and the fact that the new character works at Neutrogena heightens the reality.”
In March, the show featured the main character, Bree, chewing Ice Breakers Sours Gum in a one-episode deal struck with Hershey Co.
The show became a Web sensation last fall after episodes were posted on YouTube. The success continued even after it was revealed that the homespun videos were actually a scripted series created by three friends and starring 19-year-old actress Jessica Lee Rose.
The creators have been searching for ways to raise money to keep the production going, including adding static advertisements to the end of each episode, with the proceeds split with the Internet site that now hosts the videos. They have also been soliciting donations from fans.
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