Big Brother - A 'VERY' different partnership - Winner of the Brand Sponsorship (under £75K category)






The business objective for is to become the #1 department store in the UK. Their aim is to engage with a fashion-savvy audience with the ambition of increasing perceptions of the brand so that they consider to be a high quality brand which has credibility in both the fashion and  world. sought to achieve this through a media partnership with a large TV property as these allow them to amplify their vast product offering on a mass scale.



In a competitive retail market, Shop Direct Group’s needed to find a way to engage their fashion-savvy female audience and drive sales in a way that would help them differentiate themselves amongst other retailers. As an online-only retailer, they wanted to promote the breadth of product offered without a physical “shop window”; they needed an innovative solution to showcase as a complete online department store, stocking lipsticks to loungers, and everything in-between!

Insight from Carat’s proprietary Consumer Connection System (CCS) revealed that’s target audience:

Are heavily influenced by television and celebrities

They search for products online after seeing them on TV

Are more likely to transact impulsively (so if we make it easy for them to see the fabulous range of products, they are much more likely to buy!)

Keen second screen users

To achieve this, we needed to find a partner with a credible TV programme to use as a shop window and drive people to buy while they watched. Big Brother was the ideal platform for innovative product integration as the programme resonates strongly with the brand’s audience, who are 88% more likely to watch than the rest of the population. Product placement enabled to showcase products being used in a domestic situation; whilst allowing them the opportunity as a brand to be known as stylish and relevant to the modern consumer.


With a total budget of £550,000 net, the objective was to reinforce’s position as a brand for young fashion enthusiasts who can also provide homeowners with stylish and cost-effective ways to furnish their homes.

The partnership sought to highlight elements of Very’s strong fashion and home proposition, showcasing the extensive amount of product in the house, in a way that engaged and resonated with the target audience whilst increasing purchase intention and creating sales uplifts.

A key objective was to place the Very brand in a relevant environment and to educate consumers that Very also have credibility within the home and furniture market, not just fashion. Qualitative research informed us that the target audience needed reassurance regarding the quality and usage of the product as Very had done very little communications within this area. What better way to showcase usage that to place the product in one of the most iconic houses in Britain?

The final objective was to close the loop between engagement with the programme and purchase, whilst providing light-hearted entertainment which appealed to all viewers.

Execution and exploitation

We supplied over 200 products to the Big Brother house for all 3 series in 2013, including clothing, furnishings and electrical goods – the biggest product placement deal in UK history.

In order to increase purchase consideration we had to create a shop window like no other. We were able to create a 360 digital site which enabled users to tour the house, and buy the products they saw on their screens. Not only did this provide them with unprecedented access to the Big Brother house through a virtual tour but it also gave fans the opportunity to take their part of it home too. Within the site we were able to champion key products for whilst keeping the process extremely easy with only one click standing between the viewer and the product.

To drive awareness of this site we utilised all of Northern and Shell’s platforms, including mobile, social, online, print - whenever N&S wrote or transmitted Big Brother-related news, were there! We created a 20” TV ad to run exclusively in Big Brother. These ads communicated Very’s association with the programme and highlighted the click-to-buy microsite with real-time analysis showing this was a resounding success as site visits soared during this period.

To maximise engagement with’s product offerings we undertook two integrated editorial branded tasks with the housemates participating in a fashion makeover task, with their new looks uploaded onto both and for viewers to click and buy.

All celebrities and housemates wore branded dressing gowns and received branded suitcases. We also provided a range of clothing from which contestants wore during live evictions. To ensure that the brand association was clear we were active with our social posts, closing the gap between viewing the programme and purchase by offering click to buy links on Twitter and Facebook.

Time-of-day shots provided close-ups of our branded products within the editorial of the show. To integrate further within the editorial of the show we launched an on-air competition with C5 during Big Brother for a chance to win a holiday and products that the viewers saw in the house. This allowed us to reinforce further that were an official partner brand of Big Brother, whilst overtly showcasing product from their range to engaged viewers.

To give’s brand credibility and legitimacy to talk in the Big Brother space, we negotiated access to the housemates in the diary room to ask them questions which were submitted by customers. This content was then hosted on Very’s owned channels to drive further their credibility in the Big Brother conversations.

Outcome and evaluation

Evaluation of the partnership needed to demonstrate whether we had succeeded in getting consumers excited and engaged with Very’s range by appearing stylish, increasing purchase intention and creating sales uplifts.


Brand image uplifts were measured through Carat’s proprietary evaluation tool, ICE, which proved that:


  • 53% of Big Brother viewers associated Very with the programme
  • 89% of regular viewers saw the partnership as a good fit
  • Spontaneous association of Very association with BB was 2x as high as any other brand (including the headline sponsor!)
  • The BB partnership had the second highest recognition than all media channels used and added reach to TV spot advertising
  • ICE research proved product placement:
  1. Can deliver an effect on attitudes and purchase intent
  2. Drives perceptions of presence and stylishness
  • Different elements of the partnership have distinct roles to play i.e. the branded task has had a positive impact on perceptions of stylishness, whereas the digital display and unbranded product placement have delivered an increased sense of brand presence.
  •  The partnership contributed to awareness of Very as a stylish brand, particularly driven by the product placement, the branded tasks and the digital amplification on C5-owned sites.

But the activity also drove sales directly:

•’s sales page saw a three-figure percentage increase in sessions and a significant increase in conversion versus other non-traditional selling pages

• One product saw increased sales of 1038% (versus the week before) following the placement of the product in the task

• There was a 35% incremental impact on sales versus the category average for all Home & Furniture featured

• There was an 83% uplift in demand in the clothing category, and a 72% increase in sales of those products featured

Overall sales of products featured in the Big Brother house increased by an average 20%.

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