Marketers air live ads on Video Music Awards

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MTV's video music awards this year will live up to its nickname-the Virtual Marketing Awards-as four marketers plan to air live commercials during the show to announce the results of interactive contests.

Blending reality TV-like contests, text messaging and online voting, the live ads will be an integral part of the 19th annual awards show, airing Aug. 28. Viewers will learn who is the Video Head, the winner of a video music trivia contest jointly promoted by Cingular and Motorola that will culminate in a live playoff between three contestants. Revlon will unveil the winner of a modeling contest, and Procter & Gamble Co. will reveal who won its songwriting competition sponsored by hair-care brand Pantene Pro-V.

stepping up

"We realize that our viewers are watching MTV in an interactive way," said Tim Rosta, VP-trade marketing for MTV, MTV2. "So we wanted to step up to the plate with our advertisers and make sure there was interactivity related to their advertising."

The Video Music Awards has been a popular venue for a recurring group of advertisers who primarily target Gen X and Gen Y, such as PepsiCo's Pepsi, Yum Brands' Taco Bell, Levi's and Revlon. In 2002, the show attracted 15 million 12 to 34 year-old viewers, out of 26 million total. This year, according to advertising executives, the show's sponsorships were sold out shortly after the network's prime-time presentations in May.

Marketers that want to appear on the Video Music Awards have to commit to an upfront multimillion-dollar package that encompasses an array of MTV programming. Media buyers estimate a 30-second spot on the broadcast would cost more than $500,000, which includes all the rebroadcasts of the live event.

trivia heads

Motorola and Cingular joined forces to present the interactive music-video-trivia contest, Video Head, which MTV has plugged since Aug. 4 on its Web site and on air. "We are attempting to find the individual in America who knows the most about music videos," Mr. Rosta said.

Viewers have answered trivia questions on their wireless devices through Cingular's short messaging service (SMS), as well as online. Three Video Head finalists will appear live during the show to compete for a $25,000 cash prize. Meanwhile, viewers at home will try their luck at winning a General Motors Saturn Ion by answering questions through wireless devices and online.

"A big part of our strategy is to leverage the capabilities of our phone the C350, which we are launching as part of this event," said Jason Few, VP-marketing for Motorola PCS. "Music is part of the capability of this phone and it's also important to a customer segment that we are trying to reach, the Gen X/Gen Y segment."

Three ads will feature DJs mixing tracks. The ads will encourage viewers to go to the Motorola Web site to mix their own ring tones using tracks by DJs Felix Da House Cat, DJ Collette and Paul Van Dyke, and will use the tagline "Make the mix Moto." Cingular will also air spots during the show.

5,000 strong

Revlon and MTV have run an on air and online search for the past two weeks for a young woman who will be the new face for the cosmetics brand. When the search was announced, the network fielded 5,000 applicants. The winner will be announced live at the awards ceremony. P&G, meanwhile, has been searching for next big female singer/ song writer in its Pantene Pro-Voice contest, which will culminate in a 60-second spot on the awards show revealing the winner.

Pepsi is a returning sponsor, with live voting online for the show's Viewer's Choice award up to the moment the actual award is handed out. Voting started this month and so far had amassed over 4 million votes. Last year, the show's final Viewer's Choice tally was about 11 million.

Levi's, which has been involved with the awards longer than any other advertiser, will once again sponsor the Best New Artist contest.

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