We read with amazement that this year’s series of Love Island had more than double the amount of applicants than Oxford and Cambridge University combined. Yes, you read it right. More people want to star on the reality TV show set on the idyllic Balearic island of Mallorca than go to two of the UK’s top performing universities. Maybe they’re onto something – some former contestants are rumoured to be earning seven-figure salaries since leaving the villa.
It got us thinking about the popularity of the programme and why it has struck such a chord with audiences (apart from the obvious reasons). This is the show that sees online retailers instantly sell out of the swimwear worn by the girls and boys. Fashion chains create entire collections based on the outfits on show at the villa and the fashion media and online following obsess over where fans can buy sunglasses, make up, fake tan and everything in between for eight weeks solid. Love it or loathe it, viewers can’t get enough of it. It’s a bit like First Dates on steroids – but with lashings of fake tan.
When the fourth series launched, Love Island became ITV2’s most watched show ever. It was the highest rating programme at 9pm across all of the digital TV channels, peaking at 3.4m viewers (16.4% share). This is ITV2’s highest-ever overnight rating since records began and figures look set to continue to rocket. And let’s not forget that the show also won a BAFTA. In an age when people are watching much less terrestrial TV, particularly millennials, this makes for impressive reading.
Love Island has been a huge social media hit too: with over two million followers and counting, throughout the series it regularly trends on Twitter, contestants Instagram following goes through the roof and influencer engagement reaches peak figures as celebrity fans such as Liam Gallagher, Jeremy Corybn, Stormzy and Adele share their musings about the show to their loyal followers.
Then there’s the use of social media and hash tags during the show. The only contact with producers contestants have is a mobile phone that texts challenges and other random messages to the housemates. It’s a chance for the show to use relatable hash tags putting everything into context. Brands also have a captive Love Island audience; they just need to think of original, inventive ways of connecting with that audience via social media and beyond.
In a recent interview with the Evening Standard, the show’s producer, Richard Cowles, was asked why he thinks the show has been such a hit with audiences of all ages – not just the millennials it was intended for. ‘At the heart it’s a warm show. It’s about falling in love. It’s relatable to everyone.’
It’s also genuine content with a (mostly) genuine message that many watchers can relate to. Contestants wear their hearts on their sleeves and viewers love that they can relate to their stories of heartache, love, relationships, feelings of self-doubt, elation and dejection. We think marketeers everywhere could learn something from the Love Island model.
(Image credit: ITV)