Set your insights on the Essex phenomenon

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The Only Way is Essex might not be for everyone, but its growing popularity is opening up more lucrative marketing opportunities.

Marketers and planners looking at the TV landscape can’t have failed to notice the juggernaut that is The Only Way is Essex.

It doesn’t take a lot of research budget to analyse the stats that spell out why The Only Way is Essex is worth a marketer’s attention – over 1 million viewers, making it ITV2’s highest rated show, a BAFTA award, millions of hits on celebrity news and gossip websites – make it a new cultural phenomenon.

Its own vocabulary of Essex-isms is now part of a daily vernacular for many, alongside the propelling of new grooming trends such as “vajazzling” and fake tanning and waxing for men – as we discussed in last week’s trends feature.

The programme has gained brand value in its own right, with books and DVDs flying off the shelves, and branded perfumes and make up ranges hitting Superdrug this season.

And its individual stars are fronting their own ranges, with central character Lauren Goodger launching her own nails and fake tanning line. She is no doubt opening the way for cast members to each develop their own branded endorsement portfolio following their natural interests. Amy Childs’ salon days will probably soon be translating into beauty deals, and the plus size Gemma Collins’ dramatic weight loss could lead to some obvious tie ups.

It is rumoured that an Essex-branded fashion range may be appearing on the high street sooner than we think, and other characters potentially partnering with fashion brands such as New Look.

TOWIE, as it has become known, is also beginning to offer a swelling array of commercial opportunities for brands to tap into, with a fresh new format to capture the attention of audiences that have perhaps grown tired with the yearly reality rota of Big Brother and X Factor.

This season of TOWIE features more brand partnerships than ever, with the likes of Playstation and Ann Summers exploiting the programme’s captive audience and larger than life characters to run out of the box (excuse the pun) campaigns.

Ann Summers is using road shows, a public competition, and a photo shoot of TOWIE starlets dressed to the nines in the brand’s finest lingerie, while Playstation’s sponsorship package includes the usual idents, online and mobile interactive content through new microsites, and an interactive DanceStar branded area that can be accessed by pressing the red button during the show.

Both brands are taking the traditional format of TV sponsorship to a new attention grabbing and engaging level. Social media has also always been an integral part of TOWIE, with fans encouraged to Tweet their views during each episode and those Tweets being aired on-screen throughout.

TOWIE’s third season, debuting this Sunday, also conveniently arrives following the relaxation of product placement regulations in the UK which has allowed British programming to feature branded products for the first time.

The show has already provided ample free PR for the Essex nightspots the characters frequent so this official opening of the floodgates will be a handy new avenue for brands to consider.

The average marketer may not have TOWIE down as must see viewing from a personal perspective, but it’s hard to ignore the show’s ability to connect brands with a fun-loving, fashion seeking, predominantly young and female audience.

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