With a controversial campaign, ZDF tried to draw attention to a series on a niche topic. The broadcaster hired influencers who have a high reach in social networks. The campaign is a novelty in the history of the broadcaster, a ZDF spokeswoman told WELT. It is “the first project on which we work with influencers”.

The so-called “coming-of-age” story of “Becoming Charlie” is about a person who lives in the problematic milieu of the Offenbacher Platte and, according to the film trailer, feels “neither as a woman nor as a man”. The focus of the series is Charlie, 20 years old, played by the actress Lea Drinda (“Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo”).

The echo of the TV criticism was quite benevolent, the ratings range from “somewhat decidedly youthful” to “must see”. But ZDFneo obviously didn’t trust that alone given the niche topic and went new ways with the promotion. Social media stars like Diana zur Löwen produced short Instagram videos, called reels, to promote the series, which was primarily designed for the media library, parallel to this week’s TV premiere.

All influencer postings, according to Mainz, “are clearly marked as advertising”. And that has its price. The broadcaster does not reveal what the ZDF paid for the campaign. The spokeswoman said that the “contributions were paid at market rates”. Diana zur Löwen and other influencers involved have so far left WELT’s request for the amount of their fee unanswered.

According to expert estimates, fees for influencers per post are around 2,500 euros per 500,000 fans who follow the account. In the case of Diana zur Löwen, who has around one million followers, this would correspond to a sum of around 5,000 euros. The influencer posted two posts about “Becoming Charlie”.

ZDFneo has also hired other influencers with Brix Schaumburg, Fabian Grischkat and Mademoiselle Nicolette (Nikola Fountaris) to advertise “Becoming Charlie”. The expensive social spots run on Instagram between advertising for Chanel handbags or for the 9-euro ticket.

At least in the linear program at prime time, the series could not score despite the expensive marketing campaign. “Hardly any audience for ‘Becoming Charlie’ on ZDFneo,” summed up the television industry service DWDL. The new series is “miles away” from the “strong market shares and reach” that “old ZDF thrillers” otherwise get in the slot.

From 8:47 p.m., the range was only 0.08 million viewers, and the market share among 14 to 49 year olds was only 0.3 percent. Verdict of the TV experts: In linear television, the series was “a flop, there is no way around it”.

ZDF defended the paid cooperation with the social media entrepreneurs against WELT: “The cooperation with influencers with contributions that are clearly marked as advertising are part of the overall marketing mix.”