Campaign: Viral Marketing

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In the first branding campaign for MTV since Fallon/New York's Jukka Brothers cycle, year-old Boston boutique Modernista opts to believe the hype. "I think some people really do think MTV is a media-transmitted virus," says co-CD Lance Jensen. "People sometimes say MTV is controlling the minds of young people and we thought, well, let's go with that."

The outdoor features gauzy fashion-style photography (think outtakes from Prada and Calvin Klein print) obscured by block-lettered hygiene slogans like, "The best defense against MTV is abstinence" and "Can I get MTV from kissing?" The ads also sport an omnipresent owl, beams shooting from its eyes, and the tagline "We're watching" - a wordplay suggesting the influence of a parental cabal bent on ridding the world of this basic cable menace.

The owl reappears as the visual tag (and in scores of subtle cameos that fansites will likely soon be cataloging) in the campaign's half-dozen TV spots, which investigate MTV's shadowy similarity to other tri-lettered specters like LSD, the CIA, and the WTO. An institutionalized Timothy Leary-figure reflects on his early experimentation with unperfected MTV. An anonymous informer blows the whistle on the government's plan to inflict MTV on an unsuspecting populace (it was originally called MT5). One spot, which uses negative footage of satellite dishes to evoke the threat of nuclear war, warns that "The U.S. alone has enough MTV to blanket the globe 400 times over."

All the spots end with the owl and a jarring - but undoubtedly clutter-busting - audio tag, which sounds a bit like a fratboy belching. Art director Will Uronis reveals that this grating noise is made not by an owl but a macaw. "We have no idea what you have to do to a macaw to get it to make that sound," he says.

Client: MTV Agency: Modernista CD: Gary Koepke/Lance Jensen AD: Will Uronis CW: Shane Hutton Producer: Colleen Wellman Director: Brian Beletic Production Company: Satellite Films Editor: Katz, Cosmo Street/Deb Luchini, Panache Editorial Music: Ben Mor, Master Grip/LA Photographer (print): Alexei Hay

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