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MTV Campaign Urges Viewers to ‘Elect This’

Looking to re-estabilish its relevance to young voters, MTV is jumping into the election fray with a campaign that emphasizes issues over the candidates that have been making headlines during this year’s unusual primary season.

MTV has a rich 25-year tradition of urging viewers to participate during election years, but new MTV president Sean Atkins says “our audience is more engaged in this one than the last one.”

While the unique candidacy of presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has fascinated most of the country, Atkins says that the network’s research finds that 9 out of 10 the young people MTV tries to reach want the election to be about issues, rather that specific people.

Related: Upfronts 2016—MTV Turns Up Music With New Slate

To demonstrate that the network is in tune with how millennial voters feel about politics, MTV’s initiative uses the theme “Elect This.”

The issues that are important to young viewers include jobs, the economy, student debt, racial injustice, healthcare and national security. But contrast, they think that the election cycle this year has been more like a bad reality show than a referendum on what’s important to them, Atkins said.

The campaign kicks off Wednesday with a 60 second “Elect This” Anthem that features imagery and footage that highlight the issues that research has found is important to MTV’s viewers. The spot was created by production company Lost Planet.

Related: Upfronts 2016—Atkins Looks to Bring Buzz Back at MTV

One short-form element of the campaign is Inforgraphica, an animated series that illustrates MTV polling data on specific issues. The series will appear on air, online and on other digital platforms.

MTV has also create a Robo-Roundtable, a linear and digital series that features animatronic robots that hold debates using opinions expressed via social media. The first issues debated by the robots—RoboParrot, RoboDino, RoboRobot and RoboBear--are gun control and marijuana legalization.

MTV has formed a partnership with Tumblr. One initiative from the partnership is Issue Time, a monthly feature that will allow young people to hear directly from activists, celebrities and young people impacted by the issues.

Related: The Top 10 Marketers on MTV

The campaign will also feature an Elect This hub online where users can find information on the issues, helpful research and tools for getting involved. One tool, Elect This Generation, lets users “join celebrities including Common, Melissa McCarthy, Carmelo Anthony and more in generating memes visually representing the issues they care about. Another, “Spend This,” is a digital tool that translates the cost of the 2016 election into things that matter, from burritos and Beyonce tickets to birth control and salaries for teachers.

Atkins also says MTV is in touch with all the parties about getting candidates to participate in town halls on the channel.

Last year, MTV’s ratings were down and its relevance has been challenged at a time when more young people are going on line for entertainment and information.

Related: Viewers ‘Love’ MTV and BET

One of Atkins first moves after joining MTV was to beef up its online news operation, which added political reporters Ana Marie Cox, Jamil Smith, Marcus Ellsworth and others to try to make the network the place where young people could turn to see the issues from their point of view. Election coverage includes the series The Racket and weekly political podcast, The Stakes.

MTV’s Insights group has launched a weekly-research effort for “Elect This” that will consistently report on Millennials’ shifting sentiment throughout the election cycle.

 Some first findings from nationally representative study include:

  • 88% of young people ages 18-34 agree “I’m voting for the candidate who talks about the issues that matter to me.” Nearly 3 in 4 (73%) state “I don’t care about the candidates, I care about the issues.”
  • While nearly 7 in 10 Millennials (69%) say “this election is exhausting – I wish it were over” and 60% admit to already experiencing election fatigue, a bigger majority (81%) “feel like my generation can really make an impact on this election.” 
  • : Nearly 8 in 10 (79%) of young people feel “responsible for helping [their] community.” 85% agreeing “people in my community are more inspiring than politicians.” 73% believe “America is already great and can be even better.”

MTV longitudinal data shows that Millennials are more engaged in 2016 versus the last Presidential election with 87% of 18-29 year olds agreeing “this election is really important to my generation” vs. 75% of 18-29 year olds in 2012.

In addition, MTV found young people to be making this election more of a priority with only 37% saying “I’m too busy with other things to pay attention to the election” versus a significantly higher 55%  in 2012, and only 35%of respondents citing “I don’t know enough about the candidates to have an opinion” versus 59% in 2012.

MTV says it Elect This campaign is supported by organizations focused on the issues most important to Millennials including American Civil Liberties Union, Anti-Defamation League, Define American, Enroll America, Everytown for Gun Safety,, GLAAD, NAACP, National Partnership for Women and Families, NextGen Climate, Oxfam America, Planned Parenthood, RAINN, Rock the Vote, Truman National Security Project and Young Invincibles.


Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.