MTV has a crazy plan for getting young voters excited about the 2016 election cycle: Talk about the issues.
This week, the network is launching "Elect This," a sweeping new campaign to drive millennials to the polls in November, and serve as a sort of energizing antidote to the personality-driven insanity of the current political landscape.
An anthem spot features a hodgepodge of images capturing various hot-button topics relevant to its audience, including gun control, student debt, immigration reform, LGBT rights, the economy, health care and the war on drugs.
A call-and-answer chant serves as the soundtrack, repeating the campaign's title and crescendoing to the spot's capstone, a brief clip of Leonardo DiCaprio addressing the United Nations on climate change this spring. "You are the last best hope of Earth," he says—a slick bit of editing that repurposes a message meant for international delegates as a rallying cry for the people who will inherit the planet.
A second ad launches the campaign's "Infographica" series, which will visualize statistics on similar themes, like the fact that 83 percent of millennials support background checks for gun ownership.
Two more spots, meanwhile, debut the campaign's "Robo-Roundtable" feature, which satirizes public conversation around particular subjects, like marijuana legalization, in short clips starring a group of animatronic pundits with computerized voices who quote chatter from Twitter in their debates.
And PSA trots out the obligatory parade of celebrity supporters, from Common to Melissa McCarthy to the Gregory Brothers to Alessia Cara to Carmelo Anthony to Sasheer Zamata.
Overall, it's an approach meant to energize voters age 18-35, 92 percent of whom MTV's research found agree that the 2016 election "is like a bad reality show," and 74 percent of whom are embarrassed by it, which may in fact be the only reasonable response to the current state of affairs.
The network is essentially a fixture in youth politics. The new work builds on its history of advocating for political participation, most notably with the long-running "Choose or Lose" campaign, which MTV launched in 1992 and scrapped in 2011 for its "Power of 12" tagline, meant to amp up a demographic left cynical following the 2008 election.
The new tack makes a fair amount of sense, given the circus-like atmosphere of the current presidential field, and MTV's research—87 percent of 18-29 year-olds agreeing that this election cycle is really important to their generation (up from 75 percent in 2012), but 69 percent of 18-34s saying they're already exhausted by it.
Whether it's enough to effectively spur enthusiasm, or action, remains to be seen. A melodramatic punch line cut from the speech of a goateed middle-aged actor to a body of professional diplomats doesn't exactly scream a departure from the status quo (even if the speech itself was a good one)—and the onus still falls on viewers to take up the civic mantle by educating themselves and taking action (which is more work, it turns out, than firing off a clever tweet).
Or to put it differently, a video about a stoned parrot, funny as it is, might spur conversation—but doesn't quite constitute it.