How MTV successfully reaches millennials: a new and very different generation

We recently got the chance to speak with Danniele Paponetti, Director of Ad Sales Research at Viacom’s MTV, and had a thought-provoking discussion on the research theMTV Insights team conducts on Millennials, how marketers can best reach this group and how MTV has evolved to keep this generation engaged and interested in its programming.

Millennials are MTV’s target audience. This generation includes individuals born between 1980 and 2000, and according to Danniele, how this group experiences life is very different from the generation MTV launched with. Further, MTV is one of the only TV networks that doesn’t age up with its generation. That’s reason enough for the media company to dedicate a team of researchers to figure out what makes this group tick.

Our conversation with Danniele yielded way too much great information to share in just one post, so watch for a series of 5 posts over the next month or so. 

Danniele Paponetti received her degree in Communication Studies at Northwestern University, and completed an honors thesis on television and movie product placement.  It was through this project that she discovered her interest in media research.  After graduation, she joined MindShare as an assistant research analyst and she worked with the agency’s various U.S. clients supporting the planning teams through proprietary research initiatives. That’s where she started using! In 2007, Danniele joined Viacom Media Networks to work in ad sales research for the MTV and VH1 brands. She currently works as a director in the Chicago office collaborating with the TV ad sales team by delivering insights applicable for their clients via numerous syndicated data as well as proprietary data. 

Under Nick Shore, MTV’s Head of Research, Danniele says the research team has helped rebuild MTV for today’s young adults so that the company and its content is seen as hip and relevant to a generation that wants to define what’s cool for themselves.

That’s the main reason behind MTV Insights, a program that is part of MTV Research, which reveals emerging trends and studies to feed MTV's "radical audience intimacy."Check out the blog here for their recent insights. MTV uses this research to help its partners see the world through young people’s eyes. It fuels their work with advertisers and partners, and on the editorial side, they upstream their insights to producers to help inform programming and editing decisions. Just last month, The New York Times ran an article on MTV's targeting of Millennials too.

For example, in the last few years MTV added scripted shows to its station like Awkwardand Teen Wolf to appeal to Millennials. And Teen Wolf is a huge hit. While music will always be the heart of the MTV brand, Danniele says it’s all about balancing what your audience wants and staying true to your core offerings. Music is still a big part of any young person’s life as they grow up and try to figure out who they are, but Millennials consume music differently – streaming on YouTube, downloading on iTunes, etc. It’s not just about carrying a boom box around the neighborhood anymore. MTV recognizes this and has evolved alongside this by enhancing and expanding the methods they and their partners use to reach Millennials–specifically by embracing digital.

The way MTV’s advertisers can reach Millennials now goes way beyond a TV commercial.  For example, during the MTV Movie AwardsWrigley presented the winner the Dirtiest Mouth Award. Danniele says the most important part of this ad sales strategy is to find out what the brand is trying to accomplish with their campaign and then developing and testing unique executions. 

That’s it for now.

Keep a look out for upcoming MTV Insights posts, including tips for media planners and buyers, surprising facts about Millennials and hints for media companies. And a special thanks to Danniele for taking the time out of her busy schedule to speak with us!

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