MUMBAI: Just like there are two sides to every coin, there are two faces to internet communication; one bright and the other not-so-bright.
Taking upon themselves the task of exposing this dark underbelly of an otherwise sunny occupation are television networks the likes of Vh1 and MTV.
Vh1, which had earlier aired season one of the reality-based documentary-series, Catfish: The TV Show, is all set to telecast season two of it, beginning 27 April. For the uninitiated, ‘catfish’ is not the name of a fish (at least in this case) and refers to a person who creates fake profiles on social media sites by using someone else’s pictures and biographical information only to trick unsuspecting persons into falling in love with him/her. ‘Catfish’ is derived from the title of a 2010 documentary where filmmaker Nev Schulman discovers that the 20-something woman, he’d been carrying on online with, hasn’t exactly been honest in representing herself to him. Vh1’s show is inspired by Schulman’s film.
Meanwhile, MTV India, which had previously aired its own brutally honest take on cyber evil in the form of MTV Webbed season one, is prepping up for the soon-to-be-telecast season two of the show. The 13-part anthology drama series revolves around victims of cyber abuse, cyber bullying and cyber stalking and is targeted at 12 to 24 year olds.
According to MTV India associate vice president, head - content & programming Vikas Gupta, all MTV Webbed stories are based on true incidents that have happened with real people. With India ranking third in terms of prevalence of cyber abuse, it wasn’t difficult finding stories. “In fact, we are working together with the Cyber Crime Awareness Society (CCAS), which is helping us with the research. As the name suggests, the CCAS is an entity that works towards creating awareness about cyber safety. It conducts workshops, offers training programs, compiles case studies and also run a helpline,” he said.
MTV’s social campaign, MTV ACT, which strives to create awareness about social causes, has tied up with CCAS to drive cyber security awareness. MTV is hosting cyber safety awareness workshops in over 200 colleges across 10 cities to encourage students to surf smart. CCAS meanwhile is educating youngsters about apps and measures that can protect them from getting ‘webbed’ in everyday life.
Like season one, MTV India had earlier planned to air season two of MTV Webbed in September, however, the phenomenal response to season one made the network push ahead the dates of telecast.
Talking of the host of the show, Gupta says, “Kritika’s role is not going to be either preachy or detached. While she narrates the stories, she would also be playing the role of a friend and guide, providing tips on cyber safety and basically providing information for the youth to surf smart and stay safe. She will be empowering the youth to enjoy the internet in a secure manner. On the show, at the end of each episode, she will be joined by a cyber expert as well, who will provide easy tips and ideas on how the youth can ensure their own safety online.”
“Our stories are about teenagers who get into difficult situations because of the mistakes they commit online. The protagonists have to believably portray the trauma faced by the victims in order for us to honestly tell the story. Hence, casting plays a crucial role as these actors carry the show on their shoulders,” he adds.
The objective of MTV Webbed season 2 is to create awareness and empower the youth so they can avoid making mistakes that lead to disastrous situations. “With our focus clear, we exercise necessary caution while approaching each story. Hard hitting situations have to be portrayed honestly otherwise bringing out the severity becomes difficult. But yes, having said that, the viewers of MTV Webbed 2, fall in the age group of 12 to 25 years, so we have to be careful as to how graphic we can get. It’s a show that’s meant for all and everyone should and needs to be able to watch it,” says Gupta.
So has MTV started marketing the upcoming season? MTV India head - marketing, media & insights Sumeli Chatterjee says, “Youth preferences today change incredibly fast; hence, it really does not matter how soon you launch the next season. We are happy that the first season was loved and appreciated; and therefore, drafting out the marketing plans becomes that much more interesting. We have dialled up the engagement quotient of the marketing plans this year with the interactive workshops, mall activations and outreach to 200+ colleges. We have an in-house creative team that produces all previews. And we work with Vizeum that handles our media and digital plans.”
She adds, “We are also using re-marketing based interactive campaigns on web and mobile this time. Through numerous interactive campaigns online and offline, we are driving the message ‘surf smart, stay safe’. While we have put together an extensive TV, radio, web, mobile and outdoor plan – that will drive awareness for the show; we have an extensive online and on-ground outreach that will drive engagements around the key messaging.”
In the digital space too, pop-up spam ads on high traffic websites e.g. e-commerce sites and music / movie streaming portals will urge the audience to click for quick wins, fast bucks and so on – just to reveal the ugly truth of getting ‘webbed’. This interactive campaign integrated with re-marketing-based tailored ads on web, would drive home the message of smart surfing.
Smart surfing is extremely relevant for today’s connected generation. Not surprisingly, season one of MTV Webbed has garnered much love. Whether season two fares as good or better only time will tell...
MTV Webbed airs on Fridays at 7 p.m. on MTV India.