Hashtag Daily: the first soap for social media

Image © Saskia Töpfer

The success of daily soaps like Good Times, Bad Times (GZSZ) or All That Matters (Alles was zählt) has continued unabated for several years. But who is actually still watching analogue television at the same time each day? We are spoiled with on-demand platforms like Netflix or Amazon Prime. Clips on YouTube and in the social media have been competing with television for a long while.

But the MediaTech Hub Accelerator start-up Hashtag Daily is very successful at demonstrating that the daily soap principle can just as easily be extended to TikTok or Instagram. Users have been able to follow the stories of love, intrigue and friendships of high society since 2019 in short, five-minute episodes on their mobile phones on weekdays – regardless of whether they are sitting on the sofa or in a train. The format is perfectly tailored to the target group and uses the marketing mechanisms of social media. Designed as an influencer soap, Hashtag Daily also markets products and services integrated into the storyline and through the actors.

The Hashtag Daily team headed up by the actress and entrepreneur Anna Juliana Jaenner had already received an award for this initiative as one of the best NEXT projects at the Cannes Film Festival last July. They recently passed through the MediaTech Hub Accelerator and have now become part of UFA Serial Drama’s new label.

Social TV with product placement

It all started with an idea from soap actors who were supposed to be presenting content on their accounts ,but didn’t feel like just talking there about the best cappuccino or the weather in Munich. “We are actors, we do soap, we can do series. That’s how things originally started,” Anna Juliana Jaenner says in conversation. She serves as the showrunner and co-author as well as the producer of Hashtag Daily with her business partner Lisa Hochhausen. Together with her team, she was at the same time professional and unconventional in the way she approached the whole thing without the support of a production company. Like influencers, they produce content on a daily basis. What is special about the cast is that almost all of them are working both in front of and behind the camera. As content creators, they know how to edit videos, interact with followers and ensure for reach on the platforms. Some of the performers’ personal profiles already have several 100,000 followers that they can bring to the venture.

Portrait format and Google Analytics

Hashtag Daily also differs from a TV soap in the way it is made. The format is shot in the mobile phone’s portrait format. Editing, camera and sound must be in line with this approach. Things often then happen spontaneously on the set. If it suddenly starts raining, the scene will spontaneously be moved indoors. Instead of a walk in the park, the actors will then play billiards in a bar – there isn’t any need for any elaborate script changes to be able to do this. Unlike conventional series productions, they look for locations to serve as product placements. It isn’t necessary to block off large public areas, as is the case when filming a TV series. Thanks to the portrait format, there’s also no need, for example, to pixelate passers-by because they won’t appear on camera in the first place. The pace of shooting is consequently even higher than for a daily soap – the Hashtag Daily team shoots 110 minutes per month and about 30-40 pages per shooting day. That’s how a complete season comes together: from writing to publishing on the social media. The production process is similar to that of TV series, but there isn’t any reporting to a commissioning editor or a broadcaster. It’s reach and interaction that count rather than ratings.

“We are classic online marketing, use Google Analytics, work in an agile way. We are more tech than film, and more TV station 2.0 than film production 2.0,” Jaenner says. “And, of course, we have more opportunities to try things out or adapt them if, for example, we see in season five that a certain storyline is working better.”

From MediaTech Hub Accelerator to UFA

To begin with, they started with Instagram, but it wasn’t a big success in spite of the good notices. The turning point came with TikTok. It was much easier to achieve organic reach on the platform, especially at the beginning. “We were a bit ahead of the curve. One series after another is now appearing in this format. That’s great for us because we know that the market is now ready. If you don’t have competition, you feel like you’re a bit too early with your idea,” Jaenner says. Everything had already been ad-financed from the very first season via product placements, with café locations or major brands like a jewellery label.

Despite the growing success and the team’s enthusiasm, there were setbacks from time to time. Investors dropped out and a financial plan needed to be drawn up. Another MediaTech Hub Accelerator member (Benjamin Heese from feelbelt) offered his support and helped with a coherent business plan. It was thanks to him and the location in Potsdam-Babelsberg that the team was then able to make direct contact with UFA. After meeting them for lunch, the executives at UFA soon realised that Hashtag Daily could become a valuable addition to the UFA family as a digital platform.

In the press release, Joachim Kosack, Managing Director of UFA Serial Drama, compares the innovative nature of Hashtag Daily with the launch of GZSZ in 1991: “Just like 30 years ago, the market is currently going through enormous changes and is open to many new formats. We see great potential in the Hashtag Daily label for the highly competitive digital market.”

Hashtag Daily will now be developing new formats for Amazon Prime, Patreon and OnlyFans as its next projects within the UFA family.

About MTH Blog

The media technologies of the future are already being used today – not only in the entertainment sector, but also in a wide variety of industries. Christine Lentz meets up with tech enthusiasts, established companies and researchers for our monthly MediaTech Hub Potsdam blog to tell the stories behind the innovative business models.