Channel 4’s Hollyoaks creates social network to highlight cyberbullying

Scarlett Bowman plays Maddie Morrison on Channel 4's soap opera Hollyoaks Channel 4’s Hollyoaks is highlighting the problem of cyberbullying, by creating a social network for its characters and showing what happens when one of them is the victim of vicious online comments.

The platform is called DocYou, and it was built by PR firm Democracy and Lime Pictures, working with Channel 4. The project is designed to tackle a variety of digital taboos, such as trolling, death, tribute pages and memorial sites, (someone online is pretending to be another character who has recently died,) and is part of Channel 4’s educational remit.

DocYou is a true second screen experience, as it accompanies the storyline of the soap opera, broadcast at 6.30pm on weekdays. The social network is meant to have been built by one of the characters, Dylan, who is determined to show the truth about bullying at Hollyoaks College with the help of his video camera. Vicious online comments and bullying cause another character, Maddie (pictured), to attempt to take her own life.

Instead of just uploading a complementary site and leaving it at that, Lime Picture are producing video and photo content from the characters that is uploaded everyday, and the comment threads show the full extent of the bullying.

Jennifer O’Grady, founder, Democracy said: “We wanted a brave idea that would deliver the message about cyberbullying in a subtle, yet engaging way – DocYou delivers that.”

Instead of just a standard PR campaign, Democracy realised digital outreach was important, not least for SEO, and made a deliberate attempt to involve bloggers in the campaign.

According to Andrew Barron, digital product manager the supporting blogger outreach campaign built links to help with Google ranking and widen the reach of the campaign.

“The feedback through Facebook made compelling reading – confessions from viewers about how they too had been victims of cyberbullying made the project really worthwhile,” he said.

This project not the first time that Channel 4 have taken their television characters online. The characters from Skins all had online profiles and personalities on social networks, and additional scenes around the storylines were posted online.