MTV, Influence of

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Since MTV was first introduced in 1980, it has had a significant impact on advertising. Not only are commercials aired during its programing, but the videos themselves can be viewed as spots for CDs and other music-related products.

Music videos came about as a result of a recession that occurred in the music industry during the early 1980s. Initially, the incentive to develop music TV was advertiser-led. MTV was created largely to deliver consumers between the ages of 12 and 34 (the median age of the MTV audience is 23) to the producers of tapes, records and videos.

MTV became an effective advertising medium because it uses music, visual elements, popular culture icons and the socializing effect of TV to drive its selling message. Its primary goal is to promote the artist or band performing in a video clip, influencing consumers to purchase CDs as well as other band-related products.

But more often than not, the video clip sells a great deal more than just music. Lifestyles, fashions, cosmetics, cars and other products are promoted in the process of showcasing hip, contemporary pop music. At the same time, social and consumer behaviors are molded by the medium. MTV has been especially successful at targeting the 12-to-34-year-old audience; an estimated 218 million people per month in this age group watch MTV, more than 80% of them outside the U.S.

Shaping the consumer culture

Researchers who study music videos have commented on the close similarities in visual style, background music and format of MTV videos and commercials, noting that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the two. Similarly, it has been asserted that all the components of a music video assist in the marketing of the video. The performance motivates the viewer to buy that particular song. Graphics appear at the beginning and at the end of the video clip, stating the name of the group, song and album, motivating the viewer to remember it. The performance thus sells not just the song but also the video itself.

The phenomenon of synaesthesia has been suggested by some authorities as an approach that can help researchers better understand the effects of music TV. Synaesthesia is the process whereby sensory impressions are carried over from one sense to another—for instance, when one pictures sounds in the "mind’s eye." Thus the visual imagery in the video attempts to tap into visual associations that exist prior to the production of the video itself, an internal sign system already existing in the audience.

Research shows that the tempo of popular music is clearly represented in the visual rhythm of music video clips. A variety of techniques is used, including camera movement, editing, special effects during production, postproduction computer effects and the performer’s actions in the video clip. The fast cutting that is a feature of many videos reflects the tempo of the sound track. A similar technique was evident in a number of popular TV commercials of the 1990s, particularly those for sporting goods such as exercise machines.

Three visual "hooks"

It has been suggested that music videos make use of three kinds of visual "hooks" to encourage viewer interest. Regular close-ups of the performer’s face are one kind of visual hook. A second kind of hook involves placing attractive models throughout the videos to encourage viewers to keep watching, and the sexual content of music videos is often used to encourage repeat viewing.

The third hook relies on the association of a musical motif with a visual image. In the music video "Rock the Casbah" by the Clash, an armadillo appears every time the minor chord piano pattern is repeated. The image of the armadillo—on the album cover, for example—may aid in recognition when a consumer is in a music store. The connection between image and music thus becomes a branding technique.

Various studies have examined how TV exposure influences consumers' perceptions of the world. Advertisers started using popular culture, relying on the knowledge of TV viewers as "readers" of TV, to promote their products through intertextuality. Intertextuality has been defined as the use of recognizable textual references that allow the viewer to read the text in relationship to other texts. For example, in featuring actor Michael J. Fox in a Diet Pepsi campaign, the soft drink company relied on his popular appeal and familiarity as a star of the long-running sitcom "Family Ties."

Advertisers seek to select celebrities who not only generate interest in the product among members of the target market but whose popular culture profile will be readily associated with the brand. In this way music videos can play an influential role in the social development of their teen-age audience by preparing them to become educated consumers.

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