Love Island: the marmite of British Television. Love or hate it, there is no denying its digital and social success. In its fourth consecutive series, and with 3.6 million viewers tuning in for the 2018 opening episode, an increase on the previous year’s 2.1 million, ITV Digital Studios have succeeded in channeling their following into a brand and infiltrating current culture. So what exactly are ITV doing differently to not only recapture the attention of an age who have tuned out but ensure contestants instantaneous social media fame?
From memes on Facebook, teasers on Twitter and exclusive content on Instagram, ITV incorporates all strands of social media to engage and promote the programme. Their digital team strategically posts content across an array of platforms prior to the evening’s broadcast, which in turn ignites conversation and creates a space where viewers can discuss proceedings in real time.
Another reason Love Island bagged The 2017 Drum’s Best Use of Content on Social Platforms lies in the producers’ ability to depict reality TV as exactly that. Despite the artificial premise of the relationships, ITV succeeds in portraying the contestants vulnerabilities and emotions as authentic. In the same way that brands partner with YouTube stars for their seemed authenticity, the producers seamlessly and carefully integrate brand partnerships to boost subsequent sales. For example, the female contestants regularly style out Missguided looks which viewers can then purchase on their e-commerce platform to achieve the ‘love island look’. The clothing is selected to align with the girls’ style and viewers are not pushed to visit the site.
Brands should learn from the producers ability to integrate brand partnerships naturally into the Love Island narrative when affiliating with contestants once they exit the villa. With viewers cottoning onto the blatant artificiality of contestants’ promotion of that ‘charcoal teeth whitening stuff’ they are going to have to become savvier with how they incorporate influencer marketing into their campaigns. The fashion brand, In The Style, is a good example of a brand evolving their strategy. Over 86,000 people engaged with their recent tweet, where they told followers that Megan would not be getting a discount code. In acknowledging the inauthenticity of brands using love island contestants, In The Style actually increased engagement. However, they have also sparked mixed reactions and were compelled to release an explanatory statement for their tweet promoting the discount code #wehatejosh. Indirectly engaging with the show, poking fun at influencer marketing, the contestants and themselves, In The Style risk leaving themselves open to criticism.
With contestants leaving the villa with thousands of Instagram followers - Dani Dyer already has 1.3 million - and in some cases Chris and Kem from last years series secured a record deal (Little Bit Leave It), it is undeniable that there is an opportunity to profit from partnerships with the contestants. However, brands must be more selective with which contestants promote their products as the public become more aware of the premise of influencer marketing.
Ex-contestant Hayley Hughes has recently received major backlash for staged and inauthentic product promotion. The combination of Hayley’s status as one of the less popular contestants, coupled with an incredibly staged and poorly integrated deployment of content, led to her followers mocking and disregarding her as feed as illegitimate. For example, she received comments such as, ‘You know Hayley didn’t write it when she doesn’t even know how to spell half the words’ and ‘I’m unsubbing ur sooooo annoying’. Whilst the public view these collaborations as indisputably inauthentic, it remains uncertain how much longer brands are going to continue to partner with Love Island contestants.