No Sleep Till Brooklyn: Inside MTV’s Social Media Campaign for the VMAs

By Devon Glenn 

MTV’s annual Video Music Awards are coming to the brand new Barclays Center in Brooklyn for the first time on Aug. 25, marking the Moonman’s greatest expedition since the moon landing. To commemorate the occasion, MTV revealed the news slowly over Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter in a clever social media campaign following the astronaut-themed trophy as it made its way from Los Angeles to New York City’s outer borough.

Tom Fishman, director of Social Media for MTV, helped us retrace his steps. After the Moonman left LAX at 8:00 a.m. on Mar. 25, MTV posted photos of him arriving at JFK, visiting Times Square, crossing the Brooklyn bridge, and finally landing at the Barclays Center at 1:30 p.m. ET.

The pictures generated more than 60,000 likes on Instagram. Did the mapping tool come into play here?
The images of the Moonman, along with the iconography of LA, New York and Brooklyn, told such a strong story that we didn’t need to geo-tag the photos.

Which filters were your favorite when sending the pics and why?
Our resident day-to-day Instagrammers are big fans of X-Pro II, but in this case, these #latergrams had #nofilter.

The campaign reached 615,000 unique users on Facebook, which you said is great for non-celebrity pictures. Why do celebrity pictures work better on Facebook?
In general, celebrity photos on any of our social platforms tend to be strong performers because of where our brand sits in the pop-cultural landscape — our brand communites expect us to provide context and commentary on the latest in music and celebrity news.

And how did this campaign beat the odds?
The MTV press team came up with a fun and interesting visual rollout idea and worked closely with the digital and marketing teams to use our social platforms to tell a story of the Moonman’s migration. The concept of the MTV Moonman taking “selfies” of himself, much like our audience does, as he embarked on the #RoadToTheVMAs was easy to follow and relate to and allowed for fans to enter at any given point and quickly catch-up. By creatively utilizing the Moonman, MTV’s symbol for the hottest night in music, and combining it with the rich iconography of New York City and Brooklyn, we were able to announce that the VMAs are heading to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center in a visually appealing way.

You said the the #RoadToTheVMAs and #VMAs hashtags spiked from zero to 10,000 mentions over the course of the campaign. In fact, #VMAs was a #6 trending topic on Twitter. What were the biggest factors in pushing those hashtags up to the trending topics list?

It really was the quality of the overall story. The campaign was both engaging and fun. People really wanted to see how the story would play out and learn where the Moonman was going to land.

What about the networks you didn’t use? Why did you leave out other image-based sites like Pinterest and video sites like YouTube?
The goal was to express the journey in real time, so it seemed natural to harness our Instagram and Twitter handles to tell the story.