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Why Love Island Took on Meta-Humour This Summer

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With a new brand campaign, the Love Island brand took control by settling into tongue-in-cheek comedy and solidifying itself as the OG romance reality in the UK, with the help of Leanne Rule & KITCHEN, writes LBB’s Zoe Antonov

Why Love Island Took on Meta-Humour This Summer

Long gone are the days of TV snobbery and people turning their noses at reality shows. Indeed, the reality format has gone a long way from the first days of ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’, and the first ever season of ‘Love Island’ back in 2015, up to today, in a time when Netflix recently announced it will be doubling down on reality. Be it love, hate or gossip, reality TV has the power to bring out the worst of us, sitting on the couch at home. And although always controversial, it remains one of the most discussed formats of TV in the West, with shows like ‘Love is Blind’ and ‘Too Hot To Handle’ trending on platforms such as Twitter the moment they air.

Here in the UK, as the pioneers of television romance, the ‘Love Island’ folk have been at the forefront of popular culture for almost eight years now, glueing the nation to their TVs every summer, making us all wish for a nice warm retreat with a hearty side of high school grade drama. One can imagine that with the evolution of public discourse, through social media and the different mediums we use, as well as the general level of awareness in the public, the talk about the show has rapidly changed through the years. And the back and forth between audiences and creators doesn’t end there!

A lot of reality shows are growing increasingly aware of their popular impact, on a nation-wide and societal level, as well as the ways they are being perceived. Many of them jump on the meta-narrative of reality shows poking some healthy fun at themselves, for the brand’s sake. “Being Krissed,” which was a meme that rose in TikTok (where a lot of meta stuff emerge) is something that Kris Jenner herself endorsed and even took it upon herself to prank Kim in one of the latest episodes of the revamped show. Lots of players in reality games or just participants of reality TV know exactly where the content goes, so they are ready to build a personal brand through appealing to subcultures of audiences and making themselves more ‘meme-able’ in confessional rooms and in personal conversations with others. 

It doesn’t come as a surprise that ‘Love Island,’ the number one romance reality show of the UK has somewhat jumped on the bandwagon and taken a less serious approach to its brand this year. The OG of dating shows debuted its return to the small screen a couple of months ago with their newest campaign, in collaboration with Leanne Rule and KITCHEN. A fully animated, fun AND funny, bubbly, inside-joke-filled, tongue-in-cheek series of adverts was released on socials and TV in May when the show was set to start. For the eight season of the show, Leanne Rule and KITCHEN filled the animation with sass and self-confidence by putting in one simple statement: “Love. We Own It.”

“Our campaign was tongue in cheek from the get-go!,” says the team at ITV Creative, the network’s in-house creative agency. “We embraced the chat that fans, and ourselves as fans, love. We wanted to build the hype for this season and demonstrate the show is as entertaining as ever.”

“There was so much room for fun here,” said Leanne. “My favourite thing is definitely all the tiny hidden references and jokes. There are so many silly nods and moments which made it a fab project to work on. I loved designing all the cheeky characters and getting them looking like love islanders, in my style. The team put everything together so beautifully and the way all the 2D assets merge with my 3D elements looks great.” To take such a different and fresh approach to the ‘Love Island’ brand is definitely not shocking, but a bold move, coming almost as a confirmation to audiences that the show is fully aware of all the little things it makes us repeat throughout the summer months. “Putting your eggs in one basket,” relentlessly sucking on a water bottle straw, “pulling someone for a chat,” are just a few of the ever-green moments of the Island that any fan or accidental watcher knows of. Combining the meta-confirmation of the fact that the show is aware of exactly what all of us are onto, with this brave new stylistic choice and comedic tone, with the help of KITCHEN, makes this campaign more remarkable than previous ones. 

KITCHEN are certain in their approach: they wanted to build excitement and create the perfect imagery, combined with comedy and memorable moments. “We needed it to have all the summer vibes and iconography that is synonymous with love island whilst not taking it too seriously and ultimately making people smile and get that summer buzz! We have always wanted to work with Leanne Rule and felt her style was perfect for all of this. However, what came with using a 3D artist was working out the most efficient workflow and technique to create a 60 second animation in a tight time schedule. So we decided we would ask Leanne to create 3D assets that we could add our 2D assets to and animate it all in After Effects giving it all a playful edge. Leanne was so great to work with that she even found time to add some 3D animation which elevated it that much further.”

“Comedy was really important to the campaign,” explains Leanne. “The show itself never takes itself too seriously, Iain Stirling always does very funny, self aware narration when you’re watching it, which I think is probably partly why people watch the show so religiously every year. We had to make sure we kept that energy for this. There was lots of stuff to fit in the video in a short amount of time, which meant we got to pack in as many jokes as possible, which was very fun to do. We were all having a great time making it and definitely had a few laughs at some of the stuff we made too, so I hope that translates well and that other people feel the same.”

That comedic intent was exactly why Leanne was perfect for the campaign, with the way she styles her characters, which according to her started off with experimenting on how one can create the simplest and easiest character design. “When I started using 3D software I found the easiest way to make characters quickly was to put together basic shapes in a very literal way, and as I learnt more and my skills got better, I’ve tuned in the way I create them and the details. I think I still stick quite closely to that original style because I like how naive and blobby they all look. I think all the long limbs and round bodies remind me of old cartoons and the rubber hose style of the 20s. Something about the simplicity of the shapes means all the details you add to the characters get to shine on their own which quickly creates personality and cheekiness.”

The team at ITV Creative were totally on the same wavelength: “Over the past few years, LI has been infiltrating popular culture. Our aspiration was about being self confident, delivered with a playful tone. As fans return each year, they expect to see the themes which people love to see. We wanted to take ownership of these themes, like Top 3, or Cracking On, Pulling for a Chat, etc. and celebrate them!” And Leanne and KITCHEN are exactly that - fans, returning for another year of summer shenanigans. “We all came into this as fans of the show,” they said. “Seeing quite a few seasons now and knowing bits that people can relate to. The creatives at ITV Creative were also amazing for listing out things that would be good to include, in terms of inside jokes. To give it all justice was more just coming at it from the right place, for the fun of it, the escapism.”

For Leanne, ‘Love Island’ airing on TV for the first time coincided with her first year at university - also a time for romance and letting go, and she is more than proud to share that she definitely has spent many nights with mates watching the show. “Everything we did in this campaign came from a place of love. At no point were we teasing the show in a bad way. I think we all know the catchphrases and the memes - Love Island is a part of every summer in the UK and I think it will be for a long time.”

With comedy settling in as one of the pillars of reality TV, as well as self awareness through social media and open conversations with the fans, the format is set to only keep growing and settle cosily in its already carved out space on every platform under the sun. Audiences welcome new approaches and interact with formats more often than not, making the shows their own and deciding on what seems to be a quite random basis what would leave as an iconic memory and what will be forever forgotten. “Reinventing the creative wheel on a show that is well loved and well known, is always a challenge,” explains the team at ITV Creative who were behind the campaign. “This year, we did just that with a campaign that feels fresh, modern and engaging. Talking to fans and driving excitement for the new show, with a stand-out visual look and feel across all platforms from animation partners Jelly. We also worked with PR agency Mischief on a number of pre-launch activations in the real world, boosting our reach and talkability, ensuring that this Love Island Launch delivered 110%.”

Keep your eyes peeled for the finale of the show next week, August 1st, from 9pm, across ITV platforms.

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Jelly London, Tue, 26 Jul 2022 16:31:43 GMT