Social Activism, Ala None Other Than MTV

by , Sep 24, 2007, 12:15 PM
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Well, it's Advertising Week in NYC. I'll be joining my comrades at Mediapost's OMMA conference today and tomorrow. One hot topic this year is social media. It's also one I delve into quite often from a work standpoint as well as in writing.

Just before this event and others was an announcement from Viacom. MTV is now getting into the social networking arena with its new site Think.MTV.com. Said to be a community destination focused on youth activism, it launched in beta last week.

In a recent Adweek article, MTV President Christina Norman said the activism angle would differentiate it from MySpace and Facebook. Ian Rowe, vice president, public affairs and strategic partnerships at MTV, said he hopes the site would "complement" the social networking giants and that any content created on Think will be able to migrate throughout the Internet.

A social media site seems not only fitting but a great organic fit for an audience such as MTV's. Last year MTV Networks did a study that found 80% of young people want to actively help their community but only 19% are "very involved." To that end, the site will feature blogs, videos, profiles, podcasts and other features relating to socially conscious causes.

Think has the Bill and Melinda Gates, Case, Goldhirsh and MCJ Foundations as founding partners. Microsoft is rumored to be one of the first to advertise on the site. So be on the lookout for ads and let's keep watching to see how they fare.

I think we'll begin to see a big surge in traffic to the site, especially as it is being promoted on MTV, VH1, etc. The site is said to officially launch before the calendar year is out.

Naturally there are rumors of musicians and celebrities jumping on the bandwagon. Do you think they'll be positive brand ambassadors for the site as well as getting young people motivated to make a difference?

I'm on the fence about this one. First and foremost, I have the utmost respect for MTV. It was the first to tap into this young adult audience and give them programming that they craved. Secondly, Web extensions (done right) make perfect sense. However, I teach a media planning class of about 30 communications students at Emerson College. About a week ago I asked the class if they were motivated or impacted by either Lance Armstrong's Livestrong campaign or Bono's RED campaign. I was shocked to see only a couple hands raised.

The use of celebrities in such a venue needs to be carefully thought out. How can they take advantage of young adults supporting and in many cases idolizing them without seeming like a sellout? My guess is that this may be the initial traffic driver. However I think the real push to get young adults to do something charitable will be from each other. If someone sees one of their friends online supporting a cause or taking part in an activity, they are more apt to do so themselves.

There seems to be a potential local-level play here, too. As long as the site is safe and secure, users will list their whereabouts. Communities could tie in to the site to reach them. This could provide a nice online to offline relationship.

Whatever the case may be, social media is on the rise. My guess is that many in the coming year will have failed -- but MTV will, in some way, shape or form, succeed. ---

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