Evolving as a media company: 4 hints for reaching millennials from MTV's Danniele Paponetti

Every media company has a target audience. For some, it’s huge, like Pandora. For others it’s highly-specific, like a beauty magazine looking to reach women between 25 and 35.

Luckily, the majority of media companies doesn’t just lose their entire prospect base and are forced to start from scratch. MTV, however, is an exception. When the company launched in the 80s, its target audience was Generation X. But 30 years later, that generation has moved on from MTV and the Millennials have taken their place. These two generations are very, very different, which put MTV in an intriguing yet challenging situation in the last five years or so.

How have they managed to evolve to stay hip and relevant among Millennials? Danniele Paponetti, MTV’s Director of Ad Sales Research, says the research conducted by the MTV Insights team on Millennials helps them stay ahead of the curve, make programming decisions and figure out what will stick. That doesn’t mean that they haven’t taken some risks, but their research is usually behind them.

Below are tips from Danniele for media companies looking to reach Millennials. *Read ourfirstsecond and third MTV posts here.

  1. There is no “one size fits all” campaign. Danniele says that at MTV, their integrated marketing department always tries to come up with unique and different advertising and sponsorship executions based on the brand and its objectives. As always the advertiser’s campaign goals are most important and then MTV can get creative. For example, the Video Music Awards (VMAs) VMAs is the biggest event of the year for MTV and at the last ceremony, an advertiser could sponsor the Twitter Tracker which allows viewers to see what people were tweeting about related to the event.
  2. Look to expand your advertising and sponsorship portfolio in new ways. For example, MTV offers much more than TV commercials to brands now. Danniele says that by exploring new ways to target Millennials through partnerships has informed internally how they communicate and work with advertisers. For example, this year MTV, along with other Viacom properties VH1 and CMT, worked closely with the Hangout Festival in Alabama Shores, where they leveraged TV and social to deliver an innovative multi-screen experience to Millennials. This execution tied their brand with the festival and also introduced the festival to MTV’s audience. Read more about it here. Another example is Reverb, a new digital advertising product from MTV that lets marketers place an ad on the TV channel, MTV's website and an MTV mobile app called WatchWith. Danniele says it’s critical to try new things to see what sticks with Millennials.
  3. Especially for television media companies, give advertisers and partners the ability to participate in trans-media experiences, which basically leverage multiple platforms/mediums to tell a story or build an interactive experience. For example, in the last decade MTV has introduced more scripted shows like the popular Teen Wolf. MTV launched a digital series to parallel the show that fans can interact with via smartphones and tablets. Danniele calls it a bridge strategy to engage fans 24/7 with our content outside of when the actual show is airing. Advertising is a part of this too, which again allows MTV to connect these brands with Millennials in a digital way.
  4. Research on Millennials should inform editorial and production decisions. Danniele says that she’s proud that they are able to upstream insights on what this audience is interested in at that moment and get the information to producers quickly. For example, on the latest season of The Real World (MTV’s longest running program), they re-edited the show in a way that would resonate more with Millennials and be more engaging than it would have with Generation X. Danniele says that Millennials don’t want to know right away who the Party Girl or Jock (reality TV archetypes) is on the show. They want to figure it out themselves throughout the season and come to their own conclusions on these characters rather than see a bunch of stereotypes. Consequently, the production team re-edited the show to reflect this. So, while The Real World has existed for both generations, this editing demonstrates how the program has taken on a new form for Millennials.

How has your media company evolved to reach Millennials?

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