"The possibility of a transformation of identity is an important
part of the show, and cruelty and humiliation are also crucial in
the process," said Chris Hackley, professor of marketing at Royal
Holloway University, and one of the report's authors. "When boys
became men in ancient societies, they were often given tests and
trials, while the low in status had a license to mock the high in
status. This resonates and taps into a deep need."
The pattern partly explains why "X Factor" has continued to be
the most popular show in the U.K., even without the presence of
arch shaman Simon Cowell. Gary Barlow from former boy band Take
That has stepped neatly into the villain's role, relishing the
opportunity to dish out humiliation and harsh criticism to
"Simon Cowell didn't invent the role, but he saw its potential
and has exploited it for all it's worth," Mr. Hackley said. "His
cult trickster figure still hangs over the U.K. show and has made
it the most successful media brand in the country."
Marketers have been quick to capitalize on the success of "X
Factor." Mr. Hackley: "The show's success has in a sense revived
the advertising market. It's a resonant platform for advertisers,
who mirror the way that "X Factor" has extended consumer engagement
across media channels."
One example of an advertiser mirroring that engagement is is Yeo
Valley, the organic dairy brand that had a hit with rapping farmers
during last year's "X Factor" live finals. This year, a
tongue-in-cheek ad based around a boy band called The Churned, made
up of sexy young farmers, was the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter
worldwide when it launched during last Saturday 's show. The song
from the spot, created by Bartle Bogle
Hegarty, London, was number 31 in the iTunes chart only two
hours after the show finished, and has been viewed more than
250,000 times on YouTube. Yeo Valley has also launched a karaoke
competition app, and the winner will appear on the Yeo Valley ad to
be aired during the live final in December.