Love Island, Body Consciousness and Responsible Advertising
No one expected an ITV2 reboot of a failed celebrity reality TV show to become a national phenomenon. The massive popularity of Love Island has been an enormous ratings and financial success for ITV: it is ITV2’s most-watched programme ever and the format has been sold to several other countries including Germany and Australia. It’s also ITV’s biggest show for 16-34s.
The show involves a group of twentysomethings sitting around a Spanish villa, constantly being filmed Big Brother-style while trying to find their true love. At the start of the show the Islanders “couple up”, before spending the following eight weeks going on dates, re-coupling and trying to avoid being dumped or voted off the island. New contestants are regularly introduced and the pair crowned winners at the end get their hands on £50,000.
The real prize for Islanders is to become famous enough to gain millions of Instagram and Twitter followers, and have a chance to push their newfound popularity into careers as D-list celebrities.
Growing up in the 80s, TV shows were very different. The reality format was almost unheard of. Neighbours, Home and Away, Grange Hill and Brookside were the main talking points for 16-34s, with little or no pressure for viewers to look or be a certain way.
Compare this to today, and you’ll find TV shows that subconsciously encourage viewers to have that flawless look, be the perfect weight, and wear the latest fashion. Young people are expected to perfect how they look from the age of 16 upwards.
Some of the shows aimed at younger audiences revolve around unachievable realities. How genuine are the likes of Keeping up with the Kardashians, TOWIE, Made in Chelsea and Real Housewives? Many of the stars in these shows carry off unrealistic looks which can include breast enlargements, lip and face fillers, dental veneers, liposuction and Botox.
Adverts for physical enhancements such as dental surgery, weight loss, hair colour and breast enlargement are strategically placed around these shows, encouraging viewers to look like the reality stars. This can lead to young people feeling pressure to fit in and look more “desirable” to find love. Personally, I would prefer if these slots were filled with ads on nutrition, health or fitness, helping young people to look after themselves in the right way.
As a media planner I’m under no illusions about the fact that weight loss and breast enlargement brands are well within their rights to advertise around shows like Love Island, and it’s good strategic planning to do so. But what about the impact this can have on physical and mental wellbeing?
Much like the conversations and consultations that have been happening on high fat, salt or sugar (HFSS) brand advertising, regulators may need to step in to provide guidelines (and ultimately legislation) on physical enhancement brand ads and their societal impact.
I hope that what this generation sees on TV encourages them to accept and love how they look, and helps them strive to be more than just reality stars!