For years, the youth-oriented channel has pitched advertisers with grown-up targets on the broadness of its 12-to-34-year-old viewership reach, but until recently it has had more success with people buying the younger end of that spectrum.
However, several decidedly more adult categories, including credit cards and long-distance telephone services, have increased spending significantly on the music channel in pursuit of college-age viewers.
"Our interest here is on the college market," said Tom Kilcoyne, VP-marketing and communications at MCI Communications Corp., which has made a major commitment to the music channel tied to two promotional events: MTV's March 18 to March 27 spring break coverage in San Diego and the MTV Movie Awards in June.
Mr. Kilcoyne said MCI was attracted to MTV because the promotions help the telecommunications marketer target college-age viewers for its 1-800-COLLECT service.
"Collect calling is heavy in the college market, and it's constantly renewing itself," he said.
As part of the promotion, MCI will have a 1-800-COLLECT truck in San Diego to let spring break attendees sample collect calling and long-distance services.
After spring break, the MCI truck will tour major college campuses, offering students the opportunity to win a trip to the MTV Movie Awards.
"It combines off-channel promotion with an on-channel advertising campaign," John Shea, MTV senior VP-advertising trade marketing, said of the MCI sponsorship.
Mr. Shea said event marketing tie-ins helped older-target advertisers justify a buy on MTV because the events are associated primarily with adult viewers.
MasterCard International has also signed on as a sponsor of MTV's spring break coverage to reach college students, Mr. Shea noted, and both AT&T and Visa International have sponsored other older-skewing events in the past year, including MTV's "Beach House," "Free Your Mind" and "Choose or Lose" promotions.
"Our sponsorship roster has changed significantly over the past couple of years," Mr. Shea said. "Early on, we would get a Pepsi, a beer company or an automotive advertiser. But this year, in particular, we are seeing a real switch in terms of more mature business marketers trying to reach our college audience."
Joe Mandese coordinates MediaWorks.