I have a confession.
Each night, around nine o’clock, my fiancée and I sit down and turn on the television.
What we watch might shock you.
You see, typically, we don’t watch a lot of television.
I’m usually reading. At the moment I’m being very cultured reading Walter Isaacson’s obscenely heavy biography of Leonardo Da Vinci. If Ruth isn’t reading, she’ll be listing to a documentary podcast or playbacks of counselling sessions. If our dog Pablo could read, he’d no doubt be devouring Cicero.
We’re very highbrow, don’t you know. Very cultured, darling.
Truth is, we’re like everyone else…
We tune in to watch ITV2’s Love Island.
Many of my contemporaries sneer. I saw the right honourable Drayton Bird lamenting the state of a society that would watch such thoughtless drivel. And I’m sure countless other colleagues in the copywriting world would dismiss it as sugary fizz…at best.
But screw it…I’ve been watching it.
And I have no plans to stop.
There. I said it. I watch Love Island.
What is Love Island and why am I writing about it?
For those international readers who might not know what Love Island is, let me briefly explain the premise.
Then I’ll explain why – as copywriters and marketers – you should be interested in the programme, or at least not hate yourself if you already are.
It’s a game show.
A load of unrealistically attractive men and women with little or no life-experience and questionable IQ levels are flown to a Spanish island and essentially locked up in a fancy villa.
The aim of the game is to get into a couple and fall in love, or you eventually get thrown off the island.
It’s like Yorgos Lanthimos’ great 2015 film, The Lobster, but with more sun tan cream and less threat of being turned into an animal if you don’t ‘couple up.’
So, that’s the premise. And you don’t need me to tell you that drama naturally follows as this bunch of twenty-somethings, isolated from the judgement of polite society all start leading each other on, dumping one another in the hope of finding a better partner and generally acting like the producers hoped and planned they would.
On one level it’s awful. It’s car crash television. You know what’s going to happen. You can sometimes see the very cogs ticking over in the contestants’ brains, as they realise the crap they just spouted about being ‘loyal’ makes no sense in relation to what they actually did.
There’s also the questionable morals of the unseen puppet-master producers. Reports are many they interfere and lead conversations one way or another and the show’s challenges are designed in such a way as to create tension. Fair play, I say. It’s a TV show at the end of the day. (But I do worry about how many people think this is the way they should act in real life.)
Finally, on the negative points, there’s Caroline Flack, who presents the show when she can be bothered. I question how she has been able to land such a prime time show being that she essentially shares almost all the characteristics of cardboard, but makes an annoying sound as well. And there’s the ‘funny’ ‘comedian’ who’s irritating voice narrates the whole thing with an almost meta tongue-in-cheek awareness of his own crap lines, which would work if only every line wasn’t delivered in that way.
So yes, there’s a lot about the show that makes me want to smash my television, scream for an hour and then find a high platform and just stand there away from everyone else, much like the philosopher monk, Simeon Stylites. He spent 37 years stood on a nine-foot pillar (presumably because a local priestess mugged him off).
It’s bad on many levels. But the analytical salesman in me wonders…
Why am I still watching this?
Why is everyone still watching this?
And if everyone is watching it, is it effective in some way?
Record breaking viewing figures. Sponsor sales up. Social media to die for
To my friends who dismiss a phenomenon like Love Island and then have the audacity to preach on the importance of authenticity, engagement and salesmanship…
Shame on you.
Looked at through the amoral eye of the marketing manager…
Love Island works.
This latest series broke ITV2’s record for viewing figures with 3.37 million people tuning in to the first episode of this season.
Sponsors of the show, Superdrug, have seen a 16+ per cent rise in pre-tax profits. And one eye shadow used by the girls on the programme recently saw a 70 per cent spike in sales.
As for the social media engagement!
Frankly it makes anyone who claims to be a social media expert look like a freaking idiot. Even the most inane tweet is vigorously shared and reacted to. Its effectiveness even led me to use an exclamation mark just then – and I never use exclamation marks.
However you look at it, there is something in the formula here that works – and as a copywriter or marketer, who’s very job it is to understand what makes people engage – it should not be ignored, or arrogantly poo-pooed.
It should be studied.
To get you started, here are…
Three quick things you can learn from the show
DON’T BE BORING – I remember US copywriter John Carlton once offering this advice at a talk I saw him give in Florida. At the time, I thought, yeah, that’s pretty damn obvious. But with more age and experience I realise it’s too easy to ignore this advice.
Love Island’s producers are clever in that they essentially delete all the boring stuff from their content. In doing so, it causes outrage. It gets people complaining to Ofcom. It gets coverage in the mainstream press and all over social media. Oh, wait there…that’s the aim.
It sounds like simple advice, but it’s so difficult to be honest with yourself when you ask – is this boring? But if you’re able to identify what is boring and scalp it out, you’ll have much more success with every piece of content or sales writing you produce.
SHARE TO BE SHARED – Take a look at the Twitter feed of Love Island and you’ll notice that between its own variety of posts, the account shares many comments from viewers. This is a key element in helping raise your engagement levels on social media.
The show doesn’t need to do this. It’s big enough that it could just post its own stuff and rely on other people to do the work. But by sharing the tweets of its viewers it doubles down on engagement. I work with so many businesses who only tweet about their own stuff and see social media as just another advertising board. It’s not.
You need to actively engage with your audience. Share their comments. Like their posts. You don’t lose anything by doing so, but you gain a much more engaged follower who feels – and effectively is – part of the narrative now.
REPURPOSE – I was thankfully taught this concept many years ago by one of my mentors, Mark Ford (there’s a new and exclusive interview with him in my book The Art of the Click). It’s not a new idea by any means, but it’s a piece of common sense that can save you time and make your copy work much harder for you.
Look around the show, at its marketing, its products, its media and you’ll see all manner of clips from the show itself. What I think the show does well is understand that the main programme is just one piece of content, like a long blog post or a long copy sales letter. The cleverness comes in the way they then use different chunks of that content to market elsewhere.
This is something you can do with any piece of copy or content. A little section of an article on LinkedIn could be used as an image post on Instagram. A section on page 15 of a long copy sales letter designed to reengage the reader could be used as a piece of email copy to entice a new reader to the letter. Or three chapters of a book could be cut up and repackaged as a PDF guide for lead gen. There are always loads of opportunities to repurpose.
OK. That’s just three quick things you can – surprisingly – take away from the strange phenomenon that is Love Island. There are many more I may discuss in the future.
But perhaps the biggest takeaway, at least for me, is that though it’s easy to dismiss seemingly mindless things like Love Island, as someone interested in studying the behaviour and psychology of people, we should not be so arrogant as to dismiss examples of persuasion that are objectively successful, no matter how frustrating they may be.
P.S. To be clear. For anyone who might think I’m going for that ‘Ah, he’s over-intellectualising it so he’s not actually saying he likes the show’ angle…I’m not. I enjoy the show in and of itself. I’m guilty as charged. But it doesn’t hurt to learn a little from what we enjoy.