‘Explosive, risky, intriguing’: ITV already courting sponsors for Big Brother
ITV is bringing Big Brother back after a five-year hiatus
Mihir Haria-Shah, head of media at Anything is Possible, says it was “clever” to use Love Island to announce the show’s return. “I imagine a significant proportion of the audience isn’t familiar with Big Brother, so this will bring a new audience to the show, coupled with those who will watch it for nostalgia purposes,” Haira-Shah says.
After a five-year hiatus and stints at Channel 5 and Channel 4, ITV bought the property to beef up its fledgling streamer ITVX and replicate the commercial success of Love Island.
The Drum understands that commercial talks are under way, and advertisers have been seeking advice from agency partners about the opportunity. Ian Daly, head of AV at Bountiful Cow, says that advertisers might “need a better steer on the new format before committing.”
ITV was light on the details about the “refreshed” format, with Paul Mortimer, its director of reality commissioning and acquisitions and controller, ITV2, ITVBe and CITV, teasing that there would be “additional twists” and a “new look.”
“It’s hard to speculate on the potential success of Big Brother, or the relevancy for certain categories and brands. We need to see what ITV plans on doing with the format first,” he says.
Media buyers have been both excited and hesitant about the opportunity. Haria-Shah says he’s “intrigued” by the new series, acknowledging that while the show was “successful for many years, the show had become a bit stale toward the end of its first life span.”
And then there are the brand safety concerns. Big Brother is a show scuffed by scandal and Ofcom complaints, and laden with duty-of-care concerns. “Society has changed drastically over the past few years, with far more focus and acceptance around the importance of mental wellbeing, and it will be crucial that ITV shows how it is supporting contestants in what has previously been a pretty explosive show,” Haira-Shar says.
Nicola Teague, head of AV planning at The7stars, adds that Big Brother is a “pretty risky” show, so “as long as the environment is safe for brands then the possibilities are endless.”
So, what are the commercial opportunities?
With Love Island’s format, ITV has carved out opportunities for brands to sponsor all touchpoints of the show. Its latest season saw Reddit host the fan page, Boots stock the villa with beauty products and Screen with Envy kit the poolside furniture. Brands were integrated as closely as possible with the action in a subtle manner.
Haira-Shah says product placement would be a “no-brainer” for Big Brother, alluding that ITV could make placement deals for furniture, food and household goods. Daly drew a likeness to Gumtree’s sponsorship of Channel 5’s version of Big Brother to sell the furniture from the house. “It’s not a world away from what eBay has done this year with Love Island,” Daly says.
Teague says anything from the “iconic chair to the Diary Room and the challenges. They all offer fantastic commercial opportunities.” She just advises ITV to ensure the placements are done appropriately and “aren’t too ‘in-your-face.’”
And there is speculation that ITV’s Big Brother adaption will include some form of shoppable integration. “It will be interesting if ITV can put together some sort of interactive advertising element to allow people to browse the product directly when watching on ITVX,” Haira-Shah suggests.
ITV took its first steps into shoppable in 2021, making Boots products featured on Love Island available to buy on the ITV Hub. Cristina Miller, head of social UK at VMLY&R, says Big Brother represents a “big opportunity” for ITV’s brand partnership to tap into shoppable. “Closing the gap between seeing something on the show and shopping for it immediately is where we are headed,” she says.
Miller advises brands looking to tie with ITV to be “prepared to create real-time conversation and content to tap into trends that emerge during the show to be able to get the most out of it.”