MTV’s goal: Make voting ‘cool’

MUMBAI: It’s been a week since the Lok Sabha elections started, and since then social media has been flooded with ‘ungli’ pictures.

Many believe that 2014 elections will see a better turnout than previous years. Thanks to not only the anti-incumbency votes, but also the 12 crore first-time voters who will play an important role.

Political parties have left no stone unturned to put forward their vision and mission for the coming years, news channels are busy questioning and highlighting those motives. However, this time around, general entertainment channels (GECs) too have joined in to educate and urge people to go out and vote.

With 12 crore first-time voters, the youth entertainment channels have taken upon themselves to make sure that youngsters go out and exercise their right. “We have more than 12 crore first time voters. It is not that they are unaware and don’t care about the nation; but, they do need a strong motivation to go out and vote,” says MTV marketing and insights head Sumeli Chatterjee.

The channel started a ‘Rock The Vote’ campaign in December and will continue till the elections end. The channel’s seven-month long initiative’s ultimate objective is to make voting cool; so much so that a person feels embarrassed to step out without the voter-ink mark on the day of elections.

MTV ‘Rock The Vote’ was created at the intersection of politics and pop-culture and was presented as an integrated media initiative that would drive conversations around elections. The campaign that sounds a wake-up call for the youth to vote drives on a simple philosophy - If you don’t vote, you can’t complain.

Based on the study done by the channel, even though youth has a comment and opinion on everything around them – whether it is the traffic, professor, food or even weather and they voraciously tweet, post and share their point-of-views. Yet, somehow their participation in voting process has been traditionally poor. The study states 97 per cent of the youth agree that they can bring about change, but only 15 per cent feel they have a say in choosing the government.

To change this, the campaign was launched.


But is the youth ready to listen? “We have kept the communication simple, direct and tongue-in-cheek; so that it resonates with the young, rather than sound preachy. We created a host of sharable assets like funnies and cartoons, music anthem, merchandise, crowd-sourced videos - that the youngsters can share with each other while engaging in a serious discussion on elections. Music, humour and Bollywood, are the three anchor points for MTV ‘Rock the Vote’ campaign,” answers Chatterjee.

And since, youth is constantly in an attention deficit state, to sustain interest for more than seven months was a herculean task for the channel. In order to keep it alive and buzzing among the TG, it tried to keep every part of the initiative very interactive with crowd sourced videos, engagements across colleges integrating the college festivals, tongue-in-cheek cartoons, hashtag wars, voter-ink selfies etc.

Social media especially Twitter played a lead role in driving the interactivity along with the on-ground college concerts with Mohit Chauhan, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Indian Ocean, Arijit Singh, Amit Trivedi etc. “We also launched a new mobile feature on Twitter that enabled offline users to listen to the conversations on #RockTheVote – this is the first time across the world, that this feature was made available to users. The best endorsement of a philosophy is when the fan wears the same. With Puma, MTV has launched a new t-shirt range promoting the messaging for voting this election,” she adds.

The Twitter Townhalls included real time Q&A on youth issues like freedom of speech on social media, education system and reforms, job opportunities etc. On-ground activities included voter education/registration camps across 40 plus colleges along with live debate amongst student groups on elections and youth issues. An half an hour series was created on MTV that brings a funny and satirical take on these youth issues. It also brings in organisations / people from their respective fields to put out their views on the issues. For example, Greenpeace was invited as a spokesperson for the episode that dealt with environment issues on MTV ‘Rock The Vote’ series on Television.

In-collaboration with young Bollywood stars like Varun Dhawan, Nargis Fakhri, Ileana D’Cruz, Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor, the channel has created short vignettes. Half an hour satirical bulletins with stand-up comedians on the state of various national issues that affect the citizens, an anthem and music video with Papon and Clinton Cerojo, have also been created to spread the word. The MTV t-shirt range with Puma is in retail already promoting the messaging for voting this election.

Apart from this, the channel has also partnered with ‘Rock the Vote (USA)’, a non-profit, non-partisan organisation which pushes political awareness amongst youth across many countries including the USA, Canada and Chile.

Although, media agencies handling political parties have signed special in-programming deals with some channels, MTV has association with political parties only from an awareness creation perspective. They haven’t included them in its regular programming schedule. But does the channel see the youngsters imbibing it in real life too? “The youngsters are really smart. Talk to them in their lingo, and they love to talk back. The Twitter Townhall and the Live Debates with leading political party spokespersons like Congress, BJP and AAP, saw a reach of 14 million plus on Twitter. So yes, we do see the youth making an effort to understand the process and the people involved. Once the interest is developed, the action will follow,” says Chatterjee optimistically.


And with its social media buzzing with activities like selfies of the voter-ink marks, the channel feels it has won the battle, it had started in December.

So, ‘Don’t be a Goat, go Rock the Vote’, MTV style.

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