Popularity is everything

Showrunner Jeroen Baan and creator Matthias Scholten and tell Toby Bourne how they took a leaf from the influencers’ playbook to create a reality challenge for our times.

How to win over a generation of social media lovers is one of the most pressing questions facing today’s programme-makers. With Like Me, I’m Famous!, RTL Format Creation Group MD, Matthias Scholten and Blue Circle Editor-in-Chief, Jeroen Baan have found the answer.

The series, made for Dutch streaming platform Videoland, pits existing social media influencers against each other in one of the most terrifying situations they can experience – unfiltered real life – where they must call on all their powers of persuasion in order to triumph.

“Today’s society more than ever lives for the likes,” explains Matthias. “Everybody is visible and in need of good reactions – likes, hearts, comments, followers. But there is still a real person behind the screens and filters of the 'professional influencer'.”

“We make the everyday struggle of every influencer visible,” adds Jeroen. “It’s all about the ups and downs following their emotional rollercoaster of triumphs and disappointments.

During our shoot we discovered an exciting, hilarious and sometimes physical tension between the contestants.”

Ten competitors are dropped into a remote location, and their first task is to find their way to the series base – in this instance an old house in a French forest.

There they battle through a series of mental and physical challenges to see who becomes each day’s ‘Infleader’ and the next episode’s host – and ultimately who will take the series crown. Naturally, likes and dislikes are measured too – those of their rivals and a hand-picked 200-strong jury of clued-up social media followers.

“The fact that people have to give their likes and dislikes right in the face of their rivals raises the stakes,” says Matthias. “They are used to giving and receiving opinions anonymously.”

In a nail-biting twist, when the last three influencers are left standing it’s down to those who were eliminated along the way to choose the winner. Have the finalists been smart enough not to make enemies of their peers, or is payback time?

The casting strategy is simple to follow, says Jeroen: “Recruit the most popular influencers – they draw the biggest crowd. Within a cast of 10 you’ve got to have at least three of the highest-ranking names. Combine these with at least three who aren’t quite there yet. They’re the ones who will want to challenge the top three, and that’s exciting to see. In the remaining positions, add flavour.”

Like Me, I’m Famous! is designed to draw social media fans to television, and ironically, Jeroen and his team didn’t have to do much on social media themselves – they let the competitors take care of that. “With a cast who are all keen on making themselves a big success,” he explains, “we just had to push them to promote the show online too. That’s something best incorporated in the contract!”

“Using big influencers is great for the marketing,” agrees Matthias, “but what everybody understands is the striving for likes. We now live in a world that often revolves around image, digital interactions and instant gratification.”

“We make the everyday struggle of every influencer visible. Winning likes, avoiding dislikes. It’s all about ups and downs following their emotional rollercoaster of triumphs and disappointments” - Jeroen Baan, Blue Circle, The Netherlands