100% my type on paper – what made Love Island so successful?

Cast your mind back to the summer of 2017. In the UK, there was one TV show that everyone was talking about – regardless of whether or not they actually watched it. That show was Love Island.

The show captured the imagination of the nation, gathered column inches and TV coverage left, right and centre and spawned a host of catchphrases that surfaced everywhere, from memes to t-shirts.

But, what made Love Island such a hit? And, what can brands and youth marketers learn from its success – both in terms of things they can apply in their own world and in terms of getting involved in the Love Island conversation this time around? Well, that’s the focus of this episode of our podcast.

Ahead of the launch of Love Island’s 2018 series we were joined by Will Worsdell, co-founder of startup The Park and former controller of marketing and media at ITV.

We talk about what Love Island’s formula for success was and is, how you can get involved online by being part of the community rather than trying to set the tone and what might be in store for this year’s show.

Subscribe to The Native Podcast now on Apple PodcastsStitcher, via RSS or where ever else you get your podcasts.

Show notes

Will Worsdell is the co-founder and strategy director of The Park – a startup brand experience agency – and previously led was controller of marketing and media at ITV, with a particular focus on youth audiences. You can find him on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

For those handful of people who don’t know, Love Island is a reality TV show that lasts for around eight weeks through the summer and is set on a villa in Mallorca. The contestants are all singles who are looking for love. It’s a show about coupling and uncoupling but, actually, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Love Island has grown every single year since it was recommissioned in 2015. In 2016, viewing numbers doubled and then more than doubled again in 2017 – that was the year it went massive in terms of its effect on popular culture.

We always joke that there were two types of people in 2017; people who were watching Love Island and people who felt like the only ones that weren’t.

The marketing of the show undoubtedly had an effect last year, but ultimately it is just a really well-made show, from the writing to the casting and everything else.

The show is also something of a disruptor within the reality show genre. It’s not nasty, it’s playful and has a very different tone of voice and character. It’s a very positive show – people who watch it want the contestants to do well. There isn’t really a baddy.

Love Island is one of those shows that can make you laugh and can make your cry.

One of the reasons that the show has been successful is that it is one every day – it’s almost like a live boxset binge. It had a huge sense of momentum. By 9am the next day, if you hadn’t seen the previous day’s episode you had to cover your ears or you’d stumble across spoilers. That helped with the marketing side as it offered lots of opportunities for catch-up content.

The show also offered lots of chances for memes and the social media side of things – the team needed to be on the ball, reactive and quick – it never got stale, there were always fresh lines to use.

In 2017, Twitter generated around 2 billion impressions for the show – although this wasn’t necessarily a surprise, as Twitter and TV have long-been a good match. The biggest and most surprising social channel for the Love Island social team during the show was Instagram Stories. Snapchat was a really valuable paid media platform for the show, but not so much for organic social content.

The show spawned a number of catchphrases in 2017, which were social media gold for the Love Island team – the gift that kept giving, both online and for trailers for that evening’s episode. BY the end of the show, they were literally printed on t-shirts (by Primark).

The brands that got on board with the show on social media last summer were the ones that behaved like fans, the ones that were clearly watching the show and where it fitted with their brand.

On the flip side, there were some cringeworthy examples of brands trying to get involved – for instance, a company that sells air conditioning units posting a very dull tweet during the final.

If you like Love Island, you’re obsessed with it – people cancel social plans to watch it. Brands wanting to get involved with Love Island need to behave like that too, to some extent. Either get involved or don’t – but don’t just come in at the end with something tenuous.

On social, the conversations were being led by what happened on the show – meaning the ITV social team were able to ride the wave and react to it. But, crucially, the team weren’t precious about things – they embraced people’s interpretations of the show and loved seeing user-generated content around the show. It was about being part of the community rather than trying to set the tone.

One of the other things that made the show so big was the range of people getting involved online – Liam Gallagher and Jeremy Corbyn posted about it, while Stormzy posted about it and was even on the show the next day.

Love Island had a serious impact on ITV2 – it saw the channel overtake E4 in 2017 and become the biggest digital channel for youth audiences. It trebled its market share and Love Island played a massive part in achieving that.

Why was the show so big last year? Well, the world felt like a fairly negative place last summer and was ready for something that offered escapism – eight weeks of sunshine and positivity. It also reached a critical mass in terms of following and fanbase.

This year – expect more of the same. Not only that, there will also be a Love Island podcast this year, hosted by one of last year’s winners.

Will’s top three tips for being 100% a young person’s type, not on paper, but on digital

  1. Practice over theory – youth marketing is so full of buzzwords and generalisations, but you need to find what works for you.

2. Look what unites them, not what separates them.

3. With your social media content, leave room for your audience. Don’t post something that acts as a full stop.


5 apps on your phone you use the most

ESPN Crickinfo, Podcasts, Google Maps, WhatsApp and Instagram

4 people you’d like to invite round for dinner

Richard Ayoade, Annie Mac, Michael Vaughan and Sir Alex Ferguson

3 words to describe what it’s like working for The Park

Exciting, varied and fun.

2 places/events in the world you’d really love to visit but haven’t been able to yet

Watch England play cricket in the Caribbean, and also Sri Lanka.

1 social media platform you love more than any of the others


Find out more

Will Worsdell is the co-founder and strategy director of The Park – a startup brand experience agency – and previously led was controller of marketing and media at ITV, with a particular focus on youth audiences. You can find him on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

Thanks to #ASDIE18

The Native Podcast is brought to you by ASDIE, the Annual Summit for Digital Innovation in Education, which takes place in London on Thursday 19 July. Book your ticket now, and use the code POD10 to get a 10% discount!


The Native Podcast is hosted and produced by Dave Musson, our editor-in-chief.

Our music is by Broke For Free and is used under Creative Commons.

Get involved!

Want to be guest on a future episode of The Native Podcast? Get in touch!

Related Posts