When I was 20 years old, the idea of a cheap hotel near the coast with an entire beach of potential love-affairs on offer seemed a brilliant escape from the daily grind of photocopying papers in a dreary office. At the time, the plan was that I was to ‘duenna’ the sisters of a friend. Surely that couldn’t be such a big deal…
The two-weeks was a helter-skelter ride of experiences – which included being summoned several times in the middle of the sweltering night to deal with sweaty young guys who had managed to shin up trees to scramble into the balconies of my cohorts next door. (Often the only thing I could grab to repel them was a can of Brut deodorant. One night a guy fell out of a tree and broke his arm – but it was more down to him being drunk off his head than any brute force from my direction).
For most of the balmy days, apart from sun-bathing time, the girls went their way in search of adventure and I went mine. Come the early evening before a long night ahead, invariably the bar talk from the girls was whether this waiter or that surfer was ‘the one’…
This year’s summer TV craze, Love Island shows that whilst the accommodation has become chicer, the stories of mercurial romance are just as timeless as all those years back – and that’s great news for TV ratings as well brands exploiting the summer of love.
The third series since its relaunch in 2015 is a contest in which beautiful men and women young enough to have hope in their hearts and passion in their pants, get the chance to potentially hook up with their ‘love-for-life’ for longer than two weeks.
Ingredients for a sizzling summer
For several reasons, Love Island has been a soar away hit with audiences: Firstly, the now long in the tooth summer alternative, Big Brother which puts together an olla-podrida in a Lord of the Flies CCTV rigged house, has lost much of its original charm – both in terms of the format and the odd-bods under the microscope.
TV critic and author Caitlin Moran explains:
“Reality TV has become very vindictive. It’s all about torture and pain and Simon Cowell laughing in people’s faces.” Moran says it’s notable that alcohol consumption is kept to a minimum in the Love island villa, which keeps things civil. “There’s something pleasingly adolescent about it, and (almost) innocent.”
Whilst Love Island offers glimpses of naïve romping under the duvets, Amanda Stavri, the show’s commissioning editor is convinced that the programme’s real sex-appeal is more to do with the couples’ relationship journeys.
“We don’t want a grubby show… We’re more interested in why couples decide to take to their relationships to the next stage and how doing so might impact the rest of the group.”
(In other words, the series reflects the relationship torments of most 18-30s).
Love Island features ‘ordinary’ (albeit striking looking young adults). The original series featured many ‘Z-list celebrities – which whilst titillating for viewers – meant the characters were distant as opposed to being easy to identify with as regular people you would meet at the office or socially. Thirdly, Love Island fully develops interactive social media hashtagged gossip. Tech includes an easy to use app sponsored by Superdrug – which coincidentally just happens to specialise in selling discounted toiletries and accessories appealing to the young holidaymaker market. In addition to featuring opinion polls, clips and links to Instagram et al, the app is optimised for selling opportunities.
Next on the list of ingredients for success - most episodes are filmed and edited within 12 hours making the programme feel very current and not scripted such as with TOWIE.
The show fills the 9pm TV slot for over an hour every night. (Delivering lucrative prime time ad selling opportunities for the channel). However, requests for the programme on ITV Hub – a catch-up app - has been so high that at times during the series the tech couldn’t cope with demand.
The evolving story provides ample gossip for young office/ shop / factory workers next day around the water cooler. Contestant storylines echo typical angsts experienced by the age-group. Finally, the seasonal timing of the show is perfect – climaxing with the start of peak holiday season in August – so adding a touch of romantic expectation for the target audience packing appropriate appurtenances from Superdrug into their flight bags.
The ultimate non-brand brand story line
What with the now (very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very) unoriginal marketing obsession with brand storytelling, Love Island has proven to be an exception to the rule. It shows how when the storytelling is right, it can pay dividends. (As opposed to typical brand storytelling, as espoused endlessly by marketers on LinkedIn, which often comes across as inauthentic fairy tales).
The series’ characters series are the story. Voting viewers shape the narrative. Coronated Love Island winners pick up £50,000.
There is no overt hard sell. Rather than slogans manufactured by acne-recovering social media interns, text-speak catchphrases come straight from the post-blotch, local gym-pumped or Botox-bumped characters themselves.
Getting salty with the lingo
For the benefit of non-viewers and fellow middle-aged ‘has-beens’, here’s some of the Love Island urban lingo:
You are a mug if your other half is flirting with someone else, or your ego has been hurt. Being muggy is when you threaten to turn other people into mugs.
A deep, meaningful conversation with ‘bae’ (a boyfriend or girlfriend) typically involving how they've upset their partner in some way.
Eggs in baskets
Putting all your eggs in one basket is about as close you can get to devoted relationship.
Depositing one’s eggs in a single basket also means you're suspicious of new people entering the villa. This could lead to you getting mugged ‘right off’ if the object of your affections gets their head turned by a newbie.
My type on paper
A bit of a misnomer… given that none of the Islanders seem to be doing much reading (apart from texts), it's unlikely any have been given on-paper briefings regarding new contestants.
Getting pied is the most humiliating experience an Islander can go through. It turns a person into a tuna melt.
The worst kind of melt, named as such because warm tuna is nauseating.
A snake indicates a betrayal. (You can be a covert snake or an overt snake).
Hot or attractive.
Getting salty with someone refers to their anger or hurt ego from something you've done.
Lie back on the sun lounger, whip out the smartphone and keep adding to the cart for Britain
Viewers buy what the characters wear simply because they identify with them. Exploiting the demand, mass-market retailer Primark is selling Love Island hashtagged themed T-shirts for £6 each. (However, many are sold on eBay for nearly five times as much, as stocks in stores run low).
Plastic personalised water bottles similar to those given to Love Island contestants are also flying off shelves as well as via the official Love Island app. Each bottle is priced at £15, excluding £3.40 postage and packing. The products are so popular that they've sold out, (at the time of writing, the Love Island app store was being re-stocked to meet demand).
Bikinis featured on the programme sell well online and high street stores including: Topshop, Pink Boutique, ASOS, Calzedonia, Mispap.co.uk, H&M, River Island and Matches.
Contestants appearing on the show including model Jessica Shears are said to be in talks for modelling assignments worth up to £100,000 to promote various brands.
All in all, it's sort of reassuring to know that when it comes to sun, sea and sex it seems to be business as usual – unless of course you are the kind of guy who used to think Brut aftershave was “cool” (What a tuna melt).