Close-up: The digital drama behind Sony Ericsson's new X1

Dare has created an online drama series for the launch of Sony Ericsson's new XPERIA X1 phone, Caroline Lovell writes.

The number nine is now no longer just a significant number for cats, but also for Sony Ericsson. If you're confused about where the connection lies, watch the brand's new online drama series, Johnny X.

The nine-part series unveils the X1 phone, the first handset in Sony Ericsson's newly launched XPERIA sub-brand, which will house all of the brand's high-end phones. The series features the mysterious and amnesiac Johnny X, who is staying in hotel room number nine. His watch has 9.9.99 inscribed on the back. He tacks up nine pieces of paper on the hotel room as he attempts to rebuild his lost identity.

But why this obsession with the number nine? Because, as the viewer discovers during the film, the X1 is designed around nine personalised sections. And Dare, which wrote the film with Nice Shirt Films, has wholly embraced the branded content concept. The X1's visibility is the only part of the drama that isn't a mystery: it's everywhere. The handset becomes an inextricable part of the storyline as Johnny X uses the X1 to further his investigations.

As Gavin Bell, Dare's board account director, explains: "Johnny X's quest to piece together his past and individuality becomes a metaphor for the phone because no two X1s are the same."

When Sony Ericsson briefed its agency roster for a digitally led campaign earlier this year, McCann Erickson, Dare, iris and MEC all came up with ideas. Dare's proposal for Johnny X won out.

Sony Ericsson briefed Dare to create an "epic, maverick digital campaign" that would launch XPERIA as a premium brand and reach out to 26- to 45-year-old male "experiencers", who consume entertainment on the internet and "snack on media".

To drive viewers to the whoisjohnnyx.com site, iris created press and outdoor work trailing the series. By texting a picture of the outdoor ads, viewers will be able to download a mobile application to watch snippets of the series on their mobile phones.

Online, the series is supported by video ads, where people can watch the trailer and click through to the site or view up-to-date episodes.

Dare has also created social media widgets, which download the most recent episodes to social media spaces, and is working with seeding companies to place content on YouTube and other video- sharing sites. A blogger relations programme is also in place to promote the series.

Cathy Davies, Sony Ericsson's director of global marketing communications, who has ploughed nearly £2 million into media for the digital-centric campaign, is confident it will lead to "talkability" down the pub and "heightened desire" for the X1.

Ultimately, Johnny X finds out who wants to kill him - and why -but fails to uncover the full mystery, leaving it open to speculation - and more brand launches. If intrigue is what Sony Ericsson wanted, it's definitely got it.