FYI 09.11.08

MTV Fires Up 'Engine Room' With HP

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Advertising gets one step closer to having its own reality show with a new effort from MTV networks and Hewlett-Packard.
Engine Room


Set to have its debut Sept. 15, "Engine Room" applies MTV's road-tested "Real World" vehicle to an increasing market interest in branded entertainment, and takes full advantage of the recent surge of video content accessed by younger consumers through computers and mobile devices.

The focused, co-branded effort, which seems in line with HP's current "The Computer Is Personal Again" global campaign, pits young digital artists against each other in creative design challenges.

Those digital auteurs, divided by global region, live and work in a Brooklyn loft and try to out-design each other using an array of HP equipment and software from HP partner Adobe in challenges that test their skills in animation, filmmaking, sound mixing, and web and graphic design. The payoff is programming control of MTV's HD screen in Times Square for a night and, naturally, HP swag. A few hundred thousand dollars are up for grabs, too.

The short-form series -- a seven-week run of five- to seven-minute condensed episodes -- will appear in the U.S. on MTV's college network, MTVU, globally on MTV channels and online in nine languages at mtvengineroom.com. According to MTV, "Engine Room" will harness the global reach of the network's on-air, online and mobile screens. Audiences and the show's online community will have the chance to become part of the series' process by interacting with the teams, responding to creative challenges and uploading their own work.

The series follows a previous digital venture that HP sponsored with MTV in 2006, called "Meet or Delete."

David Roman, VP-worldwide marketing communications at HP's personal systems group, estimated that spending by the marketer for the "Engine Room" initiative would be in "the tens of millions of dollars," beginning with efforts months ago to recruit contestants on its website.

Those efforts yielded nearly 2,000 artists representing more than 111 countries, and approximately 20,000 original works of submitted art; all told, according to MTV, the largest user-generated content effort to date across any of its properties.

"We don't want it to be advertising; we want it to be real," Mr. Roman said.

Guest artists will also make "surprise" visits to the designers' loft to offer their own takes. Musician and tea entrepreneur Moby and film director Kevin Smith have been announced.
-- Max Lakin
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