MTV to Rock the Vote, Will Now Accept Political Ads

Joins Siblings VH1, Comedy Central and Spike TV; Won't Take Third-Party Ads

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Politics: The final frontier
Politics: The final frontier
WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Politicians can finally get their MTV. After declining political advertising since its inception in 1981, MTV is reversing course.

The Viacom MTV Networks channel -- once known for round-the-clock music videos and now home to a host of reality shows -- says it will now take political ads, though only from political candidates and party political committees, not from third parties.

As recently as the presidential primaries this year, MTV had refused all political ads, even as it has heavily promoted its "Choose or Lose" get-out-the-vote effort.

MTV's stance was opposite of that of its sibling MTV Networks channels. VH1, Comedy Central and Spike TV were willing to accept political ads, according to an MTV Networks official.

Now all the MTV Networks that aren't aimed at children will accept political ads.

"MTV Networks will accept political advertising that is national in scope, sponsored by a legally qualified candidate, a candidate's official campaign committee, a nationally recognized political party, or the official congressional campaign committee(s) of a nationally recognized party."

Jeannie Kedas, exec VP-communications for MTV's music networks, said the change is effective immediately and reflects the importance of the youth vote.

"Given where we are in the election cycle, and how the youth vote has increasingly engaged and played a crucial role in past presidential elections, we re-evaluated the MTV policy and decided that campaign-approved ads would be a good fit for our audience, and would complement our 'Choose or Lose' campaign efforts," she said. "It's a good thing when candidates want to reach out to young people, and the best way to do that is through MTV."

She declined to say how much advertising MTV expects to obtain from the switch, but suggested that for politicians who want to reach the youth vote, "in the most effective way possible, many of the MTV Networks are the most meaningful way to do just that."

MTV's announcement of the switch follows a report in the New York Times on June 22 that Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's campaign wanted to do an MTV buy. It's also probably not a coincidence that Mr. Obama, who is opting out of public funding, will likely have plenty of money to spend on youth-directed ads. A political expert said the most immediate beneficiary of the switch is the Obama campaign.

"I think MTV's decision to accept advertising is an important indication that the youth vote this year will have a real impact on the outcome of the election," said Tad Devine, a Democratic campaign strategist who handled Sen. John Kerry's campaign four years ago. "Now campaigns have the opportunity to reach young voters in a venue where they congregate, and I'm sure Obama's campaign will look seriously at advertising there, given his advantage with young people."
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