MTV chooses to tap into kidthink

Memo to parents: whatever you do, don't let your kids watch MTV Canada. That's one possible message the Canuck version of MTV is sending to viewers once the marketing blitz commences in May. And everyone knows what happens when kids are told not to do something.

Memo to parents: whatever you do, don’t let your kids watch MTV Canada. That’s one possible message the Canuck version of MTV is sending to viewers once the marketing blitz commences in May. And everyone knows what happens when kids are told not to do something.

Aimed at 12- to 24-year-olds, the cross-promotional campaign seeks to capture a street-level sense of cool. Palmer Jarvis DBB in Vancouver has been enlisted to produce the television, radio and print promotion.

Launched in November 2001 as one of the many new digital TV channels, MTV Canada (distributed by Calgary’s Craig Broadcasting Systems in partnership with Viacom) hopes to snag the erratic, Web-savvy teenage audience without talking down to them.

‘It’s typical MTV humour,’ says Wayne Sterloff, VP of specialty channels at Craig. ‘It’s irreverent, funny and full of attitude. One idea is to play on the theme that kids can’t be trusted to entertain themselves. This is just one tongue-in-cheek way of respecting their cultural values.’

Although the campaign isn’t finalized yet, Sterloff explains that the vision began with a simple list of words inspired by the target demo: ‘fun,’ ‘unique,’ ‘passion,’ ‘originality,’ ‘innovation,’ ‘trust,’ and ‘respect.’ And from there, 10 to 12 creatives from PJ began conceptualizing the sentiment. The imagery and radio spots have since taken shape into the ‘don’t let them choose MTV’ theme, although details aren’t available.

‘Not a lot of campaigns do this,’ Sterloff says, noting that focus groups have indicated 12- to 24-year-olds often don’t feel like they’re being given enough credit. ‘You’ve really got to respect them or they won’t take you seriously.’

While heavy television saturation is likely, with 30-second spots running on U.S. networks that broadcast in Canada (like Fox), along with Canadian networks, there is still much to be decided.

The radio campaign (carried on stations like Toronto’s Edge 102) will be paramount. ‘Research shows that our demographic are very loyal listeners. The radio buy is very focused; it’s a huge commitment,’ he says. Curiously, considering the young, tekkie netizen is MTV’s target, no online buys have been made yet; however plans are in the works.

In addition, expect a heavy street-level push. Subway stations and bus shelters, plus other typical teenage hangouts, will be festooned with print ads. But the biggest secret is the promotional stunts. In major urban centres like Toronto, Sterloff knows the stunts will garner much attention.

‘We’ll be using actors in real-life, real-time situations to spread the word,’ he says. He can’t spill the beans just yet, but he hints that a spectacle like a fake protest is not out of the question.

A second component is selling space on MTV Canada, MTV2 and The pitch is simple: MTV is one of the world’s most recognized brands and it’s the place to reach the coveted teenage audience. A cartoony poster is slated to make the trade show rounds in late April.

‘The MTV suite is a 360-degree cycle, and that’s what we’re telling advertisers,’ Sterloff says, adding that by spending cash on advertising on MTV Canada, their message will also be seen on both MTV2 and the Web site. ‘It’s all linked and it’s the most efficient way to connect to cool – there’s nothing cooler on the planet than MTV.’

Despite the brand’s strength, such a massive campaign still might not be enough.

Greg Skinner, a youth marketing consultant in Toronto, says: ‘Being on digital TV is a big hindrance, it’s too early to be effective. Plus, they’re going up against heavyweights like MuchMusic and BET. It’s going to be a tough fight.’