The relationship between eBay and DEPT has spanned 17 years but has evolved at speed over the last 18 months. The full-service digital agency previously handled eBay’s CRM, owned-channel and paid-social activity, before taking over all campaigns in online and offline channels this year as lead strategic and creative agency, kicking off with eBay as the first headline sponsor of Love Island season nine – a campaign that saw searches for eBay’s key product category jump by over 1,400%.
The partnership with the ITV show began in 2022, when eBay became Love Island’s first ‘pre-loved fashion partner’. The online marketplace’s strategic aims were to raise brand awareness, drive growth of its fashion category, and promote consideration of eBay as the home of fashion.
Alex Allcott, brand director of eBay UK, says that rising living costs and a pressing climate crisis mean eBay’s proposition is more relevant than ever before. “People are seeking options that are not only affordable but also environmentally friendly.”
To this end, one of eBay’s core objectives for its fashion offering is to inspire consumers to swap fast-fashion for pre-loved. “And what better way to disrupt the norm than partnering with the hottest show on television, Love Island, to spark a movement towards a more conscious way of shopping?” she points out.
Joanna Trippett, managing director at DEPT, adds: “Love Island has huge reach among eBay’s target audience. Previously the show has partnered with fast-fashion brands, so it was a real statement – and frankly, a leap of faith for both parties – for eBay to take over.”
DEPT’s brief for executing the sponsorship was to make pre-loved fashion more mainstream. Key to this was changing perceptions that pre-loved fashion looked a certain way and was too niche or ‘used’.
“Circular fashion means the cycle today is quite quick so, in addition to the vintage classics, it could include items such as the latest hard-to-get luxury drops or high-street finds,” says Bel Moretti, creative director at DEPT. “We needed to use the Love Island platform to shift that understanding.”
Taking an avant-garde approach
DEPT was well-placed to bring the sponsorship alive because it had originally managed eBay’s social activity, and Love Island is a social-led TV show that thrives on driving online conversation. Allcott says its campaign insight was rooted in viewers’ behaviour when watching the show. “Love Island fans consume the show via a dual-screen experience, switching straight to social platforms during ad breaks and in between shows to debrief and watch creator content around the TV series. We discovered that there were as many, if not more, people watching content on TikTok about the show as watching the live show itself.”
The agency handpicked several popular creators who found fame talking about Love Island on social platforms. DEPT branded these creators ‘Stylanders’, comprising a variety of people with a diverse appeal, and styling them in eBay items. It introduced the concept in January 2023, during season nine of Love Island, and its success saw the idea continue in season 10.
“Working with the right creators enabled us to showcase pre-loved fashion in an authentic way that was carefully styled and looked great, yet resonated with the audience at home,” says Moretti.
We discovered that there were as many, if not more, people watching content on TikTok about the show as watching the live show itself.
Alex Allcott, eBay
The huge appeal of Stylanders means they are now featured in eBay’s TV campaigns and out-of-home activity. Trippett says, “You have someone who has found fame on TikTok featured in an eBay TV ad, which is pretty special, and our heritage of managing eBay’s social has allowed us to understand this evolution in a way another partner may not have been able to.”
DEPT co-ordinated closely with Amy Bannerman, eBay’s stylist, who worked with each of the Stylanders individually. The campaign also dropped in several references to previous series of Love Island, capitalising on the value its audience places on inside knowledge and a sense of belonging.
“Because we’ve got a long running relationship with the show, we had the ability to sprinkle ‘Easter eggs’ from previous seasons that we know our audience respond really well to. Things like bringing back fashion pieces from iconic show moments in season nine into season 10 on new cast,” says Moretti. “It really reinforced the circular fashion concept and gets the conversational buzz going online.”
She gives the example of an item worn by Tasha in season eight, then worn by Coco Sarel – who shared social commentary on Tasha’s style for 12 months – the following season. “It was a really wonderful way for eBay to show up but also to tap into the things people care about, while showcasing a vast amount of styling around pre-loved fashion.”
The campaign encouraged audiences to buy on the eBay and Love Island apps through consumer-to-consumer promotions and ‘shop the show’ ads. The agency also learned the importance of creating online assets around each product before it is worn by a contestant. “Doing this means that, when the item is released on eBay for resale, we have all the assets we need to complement it. It was a military operation,” Trippett says.
She adds that eBay product isn’t branded, it’s one-of-a-kind, and DEPT needed to find a vehicle to show the islanders’ styling from the eBay Wardrobe in the villa. The team conceived ‘Fit Check’, featuring the islanders’ self-shot content, which was sent to the agency and used organically. “We teased out the best, most effective content and the community went wild for it as they love an inside look,” says Trippett.
Staying tuned-in to the audience’s reactions to Love Island was also key to ensuring the campaign delivered exactly what people wanted. One finding revealed that, while people loved the Stylanders, they were also eager to see an ex-islander return, so the agency cast Jordan to be part of the Stylander crew. “We let people know we were listening and responding,” says Moretti.
Working with one lead agency has benefitted the campaign, says Trippett. “We do everything from TV to merchandising, emails to push notifications – it’s all under one roof and that means there is a level of consistency throughout the entire campaign. The brand guidelines for every aspect were so tight and so synced, it really made it feel like a 360-degree campaign in a way that hadn’t been done before.”
DEPT’s work with eBay during the season nine sponsorship of Love Island generated over 1,400% more searches for ‘pre-loved fashion’ on the marketplace, compared to series eight, as well as a 24% increase in new circular businesses joining the online marketplace so far in 2023.
New research also found that one pre-loved item has been sold on the platform every second over the last year, with pre-loved fashion listings being up by almost 20% YoY since the Love Island partnership launched – demonstrating the impact the partnership continues to have on consumer shopping behaviours.
We teased out the best, most effective content and the community went wild for it as they love an inside look.
Joanna Trippett, DEPT
“The reaction from the public to the partnership has been incredibly encouraging,” says Allcott. “We’re seeing shifts in shopping habits via taps and clicks, with people coming to eBay to ‘recreate the look’ after seeing their favourite Islander’s embrace pre-loved on their screens.”
Trippett adds that raising the profile of the pre-loved fashion category as a whole, as well as eBay’s involvement in it, was key. “They are the key outcomes we want to hang our hat on – promoting circular fashion is so powerful for the planet.”
The campaign’s success has secured eBay as Love Island’s main sponsor for season 10 – and DEPT is poised to go again. “We always want to keep improving, and now we have our templates we will look to leverage automation more – for example, in the production of our assets,” says Trippett. “We are also exploring how we can use AI to do the merchandising faster, as previously that has all been done manually.”
Moretti adds that ensuring the sponsorship is as culturally relevant as possible is also key, which might mean using more social platforms as eBay looks to speak to a broader range of talent and people. “We are continually looking at how we can inject more life into the partnership. Watch this space.”