MTV Builds Millennial Ad Unit From ‘Scratch’

MTV is looking to cash in on its refurbished street cred, creating a new advertising unit designed to help sponsors more effectively connect with the core millennial demo.

Launched with an eye toward making the most of MTV’s in-house research, marketing, ad sales and programming properties, MTV Scratch will work alongside select clients to develop creative targeted to the 12-34 crowd. Depending on the objective of a particular campaign, the MTV Scratch creative could run across the Viacom cable networks, which include Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, VH1, Spike TV, TV Land and the flagship channel.

Beyond the linear TV realm, the MTV Scratch team will also look to extend its homegrown messaging into online, mobile, social media, print and the events space.

Early efforts already have borne fruit, including a customized series of integrations that coincided with the June 2009 launch of Microsoft’s Bing. The search engine garnered air time on such MTVN outlets as The Daily Show With Jon Stewart (Comedy Central), VH1’s Charm School and the Real World-Road Rules Challenge reunion special on MTV.  

Other clients that cooperated with the Scratch prototype include Pepsi-Cola and the Zeno Hot Spot. New Scratch partners will be announced in the coming weeks.

Former senior vp of MTV360 development & production Ross Martin will lead the new unit, having been elevated to executive vp of MTV Scratch. A six year MTVN veteran, Martin reports to MTV general manager Stephen Friedman.

Along with its client-facing efforts, Scratch also will enjoy a cozy working relationship with established MTV marketing teams, including those managed by Sean Moran, executive vp of MTVN music group ad sales & integrated marketing and Dan Lovinger, senior vp of MTV ad sales & integrated marketing.

While the name of the new unit evokes everything from the mix-n-match dynamics of hip-hop culture––just as the DJ produces new sounds by manipulating two records back and forth on a turntable, the Scratch team loops and crossfades a host of stimuli and data in order to produce its creative––Martin said the semantic roots of the name are ambiguous by design.

“The name ‘Scratch’ supports the idea that we have a whole bunch of different ingredients and we’re throwing them at the wall to see what sticks,” Martin said. “But there’s also the sense that we’re looking to do more than scratch the surface of millennial culture, and that we’re looking to make a mark.”  (As befits an ad sales unit, “scratch” also happens to be old-school slang for “money.”)

Other leaders of the Scratch team are creative director Brian DeCubellis and unit vp Anne Hubert.

The announcement comes as MTV is enjoying its hottest ratings quarter in memory. After enduring a lengthy ratings slump, the network last year dove back into the zeitgeist with shows like Jersey Shore and Teen Mom; as a result, MTV has reclaimed its position as a must-carry network for viewers 12-34.

Per Nielsen, MTV’s deliveries of its core demo grew 30 percent in the third quarter, a period in which the network boasted eight of the top 10 most-watched programs among viewers 12-34. With an average nightly draw of 1.22 million total viewers, the net boosted its prime time deliveries by 43 percent versus Q3 2009. MTV closed out the quarter ranked No. 1 among viewers 18-34, averaging 632,000 (up 53 percent), and tied History for fifth place with 802,000 viewers 18-49, a 46 percent improvement.

The US population includes approximately 92 million millennials, young adults between the ages of 8 and 29. The demo boasts some $250 billion in annual buying power.