As part of WARC Rankings 2024, WARC spoke to EssenceMediacom’s Head of Creative Strategy, Lindsey Jordan, about eBay’s ‘Pre-Loved Island’ campaign, where items from the e-commerce site dressed the cast of one of the UK’s most popular reality TV shows, Love Island.

Why are the WARC Rankings important to your agency?

Everything we do is about breaking through for our clients, finding solutions to their problems and giving them a competitive advantage. So when WARC rankings show that this is working we can see that everything we are doing is right. It’s a great boost to our teams to see their hard work and brilliant creativity being recognised, and it shows our clients that we are a market-leading partner.

Tell us a bit about the background to the campaign – what was the challenge or issue you were trying to solve?

The UK’s fast fashion addiction is seriously damaging the environment. According to Greenpeace, 300,000 tonnes of clothes are burned or buried in the UK every year.

eBay has been selling ‘pre-loved’ clothes since 1995 but despite the surge of interest in ‘sustainability’, second-hand fashion still didn’t have anywhere near the mass appeal of fast fashion: a recent study by Leeds University revealed that 69% of shoppers have negative views of second-hand clothes.

Simply put, used clothes were not seen as cool or stylish, especially by young people who were driving fast fashion sales. eBay needed to shift this perception and ignite a second-hand revolution, showing Gen Z and Millennials that used clothes could be on-trend and desirable.

Gen Z is more sustainability-conscious, but price point is a still major factor in the popularity of fast fashion purchases. How did Ebay bridge that gap? 

Fast fashion is undoubtedly driven by a very accessible price point. But preloved also offers great value. Generally, pre-loved fashion is better value than buying new, and a lot of the clothes have only been worn a handful of times, or even not at all. 

It also offers value in a different way, in that you can get one-of-a-kind items, like some of the outfits featured on Love Island at an accessible price point. And you can get your hands on items that have sold out, at a fraction of the cost. So, it is generally better for the pocket, and of course it’s better for the planet. So it blends price with sustainability which is a massive win for this audience.

When developing the creative approach, what was your process for generating unique insights and ideas? How did you land on the direction you took?

We looked to understand what was fuelling the fast fashion economy. What was going on in culture that was driving fast fashion? Where was there a role for eBay to create acts not just ads, and actually change behaviours?

So, we looked to one of the UK’s biggest and most talked-about fashion properties. A TV show that makes and breaks fashion trends amongst the exact Gen Z and Millennial audience eBay wanted to target. ITV’s Love Island. Love Island had previously been sponsored by fast fashion brands for seven series. Through omnipresent product placement and advertising, fast fashion that was featured on the show regularly sold out in under 10 minutes. Islanders, meanwhile, often became fast fashion brand advocates, with 2019 contestant, Molly-Mae, famously becoming Pretty Little Thing’s Creative Director.

We wanted to take the power of Love Island and rewrite the narrative in the most unexpected way possible. So, our idea was to switch the narrative to a more sustainable story. Dumping fast fashion in favour of second-hand, eBay became Love Island’s first-ever ‘pre-loved’ fashion partner. 

From Love Island to ‘Pre-Loved Island’.

What was your media approach, and why did you choose to go that direction?

We created a unique partnership that changed the fashion narrative of the show. And at the heart of this was pre-loved product placement, because it had to be an authentic change. eBay provided islanders with a wardrobe of second-hand clothes, chosen by a celebrity stylist, creating individual and on-trend looks, demonstrating just how stylish pre-loved can be.

Then we wanted to put our ‘pre-loved’ message front and centre in the programme itself, so islanders were encouraged to re-wear and swap items, whilst narrator, Iain Stirling, made regular in-show shout-outs about the brand, all absolutely editorially justified. On social media, we even created content showing contestants unboxing pre-loved clothes (all from eBay packaging) and talking through their favourite looks.

To really land the pre-loved message and show how stylish it is, for the show’s big moments – such as parties and bombshell dates – we created shoppable edits of pre-loved pieces like those seen on screen. These were featured in live eBay auctions enabling fans to get the look with the chance to bid on over 40 of the season’s most-coveted outfits.

To further cement awareness of the preloved narrative throughout the series we ran contextual co-branded TV and video ads, celebrating amazing pre-loved looks, while time-targeted Twitter content naturally inserted pre-loved fashion into the Love Island conversation.

Finally, we didn’t just want to end our conversation with fans when the show ended, so post the show, we continued our relationship with one of the most stylish contestants, Tasha, as a pre-loved brand ambassador.

This campaign was hugely successful and eBay is going to commit more money in the next two years to growing its impact even more. What will the next evolution look like?

We started in our first year as the official fashion partner, activated via product placement, contextual AV, social and influencers, creating a comms system around the show designed to get people talking. But one key learning after our first series was to make the association as overt as possible and keeping it in the style and look and feel of the show. So, the campaign evolved into eBay becoming headline sponsors of Love Island as well. We also realised the power of being reactive to what was happening in the programme to drive talkability. So, our campaign evolved to be more reactive, to jump on trends and moments In the show as they happened.

Did you face any challenges or hurdles to overcome in the process of the campaign, from ideation through to execution? How did you overcome them?

We learnt the importance of being more real-time in driving talkability and real cultural relevance. But this led to one of the big challenges, which was to transform our social plan from planned to reactive in line with the consumption of the show.

The challenges were logistical, getting quick approvals from multiple parties, and getting up to speed with the real-time lingo of the show to translate that into content for eBay.

We overcame this challenge by creating an agile and strong cross-agency team and developing a trusted relationship with ITV, which was crucial as they understood the show best and how to best amplify what was happening in it.