Influencer strategy? Don’t forget traditional product placement


We all know that reality TV continues to bring in the big bucks – especially for those stars who front it. 

Love them, or hate them, one only need look at the continued success of the Kardashian/Jenners to see this in action – each of them developing their own business empires with the various ventures they’ve explored. Kylie alone now has a real-time net worth of £1bn, thanks in the main to her eponymous cosmetics line.

Then there’s the return of The Hills – another example of an enormous US show that made stars of, and fortunes for, its participants over its many years. 

But there’s also a lot to be said for the brands that have associated themselves alongside – a classic case of product placement with “real-life” influencers in order to drive sales. 

One of the new episodes of The Hills for instance sees L’Oréal placed front and center in a scene. As The Fashion Law reports, there is no specific disclosure as to how the items are there, despite them almost certainly being the result of a behind-the-scenes deal between the television network and the Paris-based beauty giant. 

We know this so-called native advertising has a positive effect on consumer demand, and that product placement leads to an increase in social media activity and website traffic for the brands that engage in it. It’s a traditional model, but it works for conversions. 

Which is why it’s interesting to pivot over to the UK and look at this week’s announcement that dating show Love Island, which has been a television network and advertiser’s dream, is intending to extend to two series in 2020 rather than one annual one as it has previously done. 

This year’s ITV2 show, which aired in June, pulled in a reported five million viewers a night, making it the most popular on television in the UK for the 16-34-year-old market. It made fast influencers out of its stars, and importantly out of its sponsors too. 

The episodes were sponsored by Uber Eats, which paid £5m for the privilege – more than double previous deals – while further commercial relationships were in place ranging from product placement to podcast sponsorship, brand licensing, exclusive product lines and merchandise. Love Island water bottles through to luggage sets are currently dotted throughout the UK market. According to reports, the broadcaster made an extra £8m on 2018 due to this boost. 

This isn’t just a TV phenomenon but a social obsession in this country. As The Guardian reported: “The reality show has managed to pull off the increasingly difficult trick of getting young audiences more used to an on-demand world to tune in to a show at a set time each night. It has also become a creature of social media, with an enormous following on Instagram and more than 3 million people downloading the programme’s app for updates.” 

One of the biggest success stories from the brand side within all this was I Saw It First – a fast fashion business from Boohoo co-founder Jamal Kamani. According to the Business of Fashion, the company spent between £1-2m to secure its spot as the show’s official fashion partner, replacing Missguided who has held the post in previous years. 

Seemingly, it paid off. I Saw It First had a 67% increase in sales month-on-month and a 254% increase in Instagram followers. Those are some solid numbers. 

We might be living in a world heavily pushing micro influencer strategy – which continues to have its merits – but there’s a lot to be said for this sort of spend big strategy on traditional media. More to come, one assumes, next year when Love Island will be aired just after Christmas and again in the summer.

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