MTV: Viewers Are the Boss

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Looking to convey the message that its audience is ultimately in charge of its myriad directions, MTV: Music Television is launching an affiliate campaign that puts its viewers front and center, as a reminder that they can help distributors boost their various business goals.

Beginning Feb. 9, the campaign will center on trade ads and e-mail messages addressed to affiliate executives, touting that message and directing them to an affiliate Web site, MTVN.com, where there are links to an array of information about pertinent programs.

These are the first steps, running for between four to six weeks, in what MTV Networks senior vice president of affiliate marketing Jessica Heacock expects will be a year-long effort.

"All the MTV Networks are audience-driven, relying heavily on consumer research and focus groups," she said. "At MTV, we then try to deliver what our viewers want in creative ways.

"We believe this campaign will reaffirm that idea for our affiliates. And if we succeed in piquing or renewing their interest, they can go to our site and begin actualizing some of the ways we can help them build their businesses, whether digital cable, [voice-over-Internet protocol] or a social-affairs agenda."

Print creative centers around viewers pretending they are the network president, or lead the programming, marketing or public-affairs departments, with display and body copy reflecting the particular specialty.

For instance, one ad begins with the headline: "I am the Head of Programming for MTV" followed by copy stating "The shows you see on MTV are there because of me. Newlyweds, Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen and Dave, Made, The Real World… I am the reason they are such big hits. My secret? I just know what I like when I see it. It's that simple. My name is Courtney and I am the Head of Programming for MTV."

All of the ads conclude with the tagline: "MTV. It's not our network. It's theirs."

Heacock said MTV's core 12 to 34 audience wields considerable clout that affiliates can tap.

"Our advertisers value reaching our audience, and our hope is that this campaign will remind our affiliates that they can do the same," she said. "MTV viewers have plenty of their own spending power and influence many other household purchasing decisions. They are also heavy users of new technologies."

MTV trotted out various data to support Heacock's proclamations. Young people aged 12 to 24 had about $184 billion in discretionary income in 2003, according to Teen Research Unlimited, while MRI said that 18-to 34-year-olds accounted for 21% of all cable bill payers last year.

As for technology, head of households under the age of 35 represented 31% of cable-modem subs, according to the 2003 MTV and Viacom Leisure Time study.

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