Big Brother is back

October 2nd 2023 By Liz Burns 3 minute read

Following a five year break, Big Brother returned to our screens last week with a bang – pulling in its best numbers in nearly a decade (OK, beating the last five years was a bit of a breeze).

In an effort to keep BB alive, the cast is a diverse group of interesting, everyday-life characters & without an influencer in sight (well, almost) – thank god. 

When Big Brother first hit the airwaves at the turn of the century (yikes, you really are that old), it was an entirely novel concept that captivated viewers. They were ordinary individuals, oblivious to the fact that their lives would be under the constant scrutiny of millions of viewers. This genuine lack of self-awareness made for unscripted, authentic, and often explosive interactions among housemates (and I’m not ashamed to say I revelled in every second of it). 

Some participants engaged in their everyday activities, whilst others were laser-focused on the grand prize, leading them to make scandalous claims and attempt to manipulate the voting process (we’re looking at you, Nasty Nick). 

The resulting drama was compelling and intense, as it was both spontaneous and surreal. Since the end of old-school style BB, I’ve been craving this sort of drama ever since! Now, after over a decade of wishing, the desires of reality-show-obsessed individuals like myself have finally been fulfilled. And there was a whole army of us (at least for the first episode). With 2.6 million viewers tuning in for the opening night, viewing figures soon plummeted to 800,000 nearly one week on from the launch – ouch! 

Today, unlike the TV gold from BB’s heydays, potential contestants for reality TV shows are more savvy and media-conscious than ever. They have witnessed previous contestants parlay their TV appearances into lucrative careers as social media influencers, brand ambassadors, and celebrities in their own right. This awareness can lead to a more calculated and self-conscious approach from the participants, *cough* Olivia… 
Knowing the potential rewards of fame, some contestants are clearly inclined to present themselves in a certain way to maximise their appeal to audiences and to secure post-show opportunities. We’ve seen this so far through exaggerated personalities, ridiculous conflicts (salmon and sweetcorn, anyone?), and strategic alliances designed for the sole purpose of gaining attention.

As the pursuit of fame and influence increasingly becomes a driving force, authenticity and genuine, unfiltered interactions between housemates may take a backseat. Viewers who were initially drawn to the raw and real experiences offered by shows like Big Brother may find its revamped ITV2 version less compelling.

Whilst the start may be boring, we probably won’t be saying the same once the food-deprivation-induced cabin fever sets in and true colours are exposed – the only part of reality TV that makes it worth watching!

One thing that always plays through my mind though is the question as to whether we’re watching a bunch of genuinely influential future influencers or a bunch of damp squibs.

As marketers, we’re always scouting for potential opportunities and reality television is a conveyor belt of ‘talent’ for all sorts of PR and brand activities. But that opportunity can be very short lived. The immediate aftermath of a series presents a red hot opportunity for contestants to claw themselves a slice of the influencer pie – and the subsequent brand partnerships that come with it.

Failing to seize the moment though can all too often see supposed fame sizzle out into nothing in no time. And if you’re going to set yourself up for potential ridicule in front of the nation, then making hay whilst the sun shines is a must – otherwise you’re just going to be left with a solid anecdote for whenever you're asked to “Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.”

So – fake on screen personas aside – the real hard work starts as soon as they leave the house. It’ll be interesting to say who makes it and who sinks into immediate obscurity.

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