Inside the Villa: How Love Island Made a Sizzling Success of Social-First TV

For the UK, the summer of 2018 has thus far been defined by three things: Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat, the glorious sunshine and series 4 of ITV2’s Love Island, which has this year once again dominated conversation on social media and ensured millions of people’s plans at 9pm every evening.

But traditionally, tech has been the sworn enemy of television. The rise of social media and the consequent birth of a generation of ‘cord-cutters’ has fooled many into thinking that broadcasters can’t use both to good effect; they have to pick a side. So when ITV’s in-house creative team developed its four-pronged, award-winning marketing strategy for Love Island, they were already acting outside of the orthodox. It is this merging of both the traditional and timely which has been an undeniable factor in driving the show to unparalleled success among a 16-34 audience.


Love Island

So how does a linear TV show break social and digital records?

A good grasp on the show’s audience is essential. Those who tune in to Love Island day after day to find out who’s mugged off who since last night’s episode have a few key things in common: a desperation to be involved in the hype, a keen interest in the glamorous lives of others and an innate desire to share their thoughts and feelings on the open forum of social media.

ITV capitalises on these emotions in several ways. Its multi-channel marketing strategy both generates and satiates FOMO, creates an air of exclusivity and keeps itself at the forefront of the audience’s mind at all times. All the while, it is driving interactivity and constructing a desirable brand image synonymous with summer, fashion and fun through several carefully selected affiliate brand partnerships.


Love Island


The use of Twitter, for example, has become an integral part of the Love Island experience; the platform is as important to the show as the show has become to the platform between June and August. Last year, when the show arguably hit its stride on social, it earned 280 million video views and 5 billion Twitter impressions. The official hashtag #LoveIsland, complete with dedicated ‘hashflag’, was also tweeted a staggering 1.83 million times in the first month of the show alone. Inside the villa, games played by the contestants such as ‘Twitter Bingo’ have concreted the platform’s relationship with the show.

But for 2018, ITV has refused to rest on what worked well last year

Snapchat was a major player in last series’ social marketing strategy, with the show’s ‘First Look’ series being broadcasted on this channel. This year, however, the producers made a wise decision to swap out Snapchat for Instagram. While Snapchat was series 3’s largest social media channel, following the platform’s widely-ridiculed redesign, ITV reportedly saw a significant drop in user numbers, obliterating the show’s Snapchat audience. The showrunners were also decidedly in favour of Instagram’s ‘visual perfection,’ which matches the essence of the show in everything from the villa’s infinity pool and slogan-covered walls to the glossy contestants themselves.

Love Island

ITV’s decision has proven to be a wise one now as, in series 4’s first month alone, Love Island’s official Instagram account almost doubled its audience. It now sits at 2m followers, making it the most followed UK show on Instagram and surpassing the likes of James Corden’s Late Late Show in the US with 1.75m followers. As well as posting regularly in the main feed, the Love Island Instagram account uses Stories to direct fans to quizzes, divulge teaser soundbites and share its popular First Look episode teasers, which have brought in roughly 46m views, according to ITV. It proves that, contrary to popular belief, putting content on social media doesn’t cannibalise viewing; the First Look series actually plays a key role in driving viewers to the live show.

Love Island has created the perfect strategic platform for advertisers

Outside of the main event, ad breaks, social content and products lining the shelves show brands everywhere hopping aboard the Love Island train. While some are just keen to jump on the hype, there are a select few who have been chosen specifically to represent the show. For series 4, ITV recruited more commercial partners than ever before to harvest the show’s success. These are Superdrug, Rimmel London, Jet2Holidays, Missguided, Ministry of Sound, Kellogg’s, Echo Falls, Primark, Lucozade Zero, Samsung and Thorpe Park.


Love Island


This particular collection of allies is what’s being referred to as youth audience ‘gold dust’, because of their audiences, image and reputation. Each major sponsor has content relevant to their brand seamlessly integrated into the show – for example, the font used on the Islanders’ infamous water bottles is Superdrug’s own logotype. Viewers can even buy personalised versions of these water bottles – of which ITV has sold over 190k this series, as well as 7000 phone cases, 5000+ wash bags and 8000+ wristbands. Ministry of Sound also sponsors parties hosted in the villa and, this year, the entertainment behemoth has brought out a Love Island-themed summer anthems album, proving how mutually lucrative these partnerships can be for broadcasters and advertisers alike.



Samsung, for example, provides the Islanders with their handsets, which are constantly placed throughout each episode so they can shout “I’ve got a text!” when the producers have something juicy in store for them. And the photos taken by the cast on these phones from inside the villa go on to be shared on Instagram, primed to become the show’s most popular social content.

It’s a glimpse into how TV channels can successfully build a platform which brands and advertisers can get involved in and, rather than being blocked out, can actually have their product messaging welcomed by an audience primed to buy into it. But, importantly, Love Island’s roaring success also acts as a comprehensive study of technology’s place in traditional television. ITV has done what no other broadcaster has been able to. They have created a new world in which social media is far more of a help than a hindrance when it comes to winning the hearts of an elusive generation of cord-cutters. 

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