How do you promote middle-aged MTV to a young

How do you promote middle-aged MTV to a young audience enveloped in a lightning-paced media environment? One way is to stop running. Kevin Mackall, svp of on-air promotions at MTV, opts to woo the short-attention-span crowd by slowing down. Convinced the audience sometimes feels overwhelmed by the cacophony of content choices, Mackall crafted the ongoing campaign “Pax = Peace,” which consists of lingering nature scenes, unusual music and minimal copy such as “preservation” and “reflect slowly.”

The campaign is just a blip in Mackall’s body of work, which includes more predictable youth fare such as animated humping rats and 1950s scenes of wholesome teens led astray. But the Pax spots demonstrate how Mackall, 39, can see outside the noisy conventions of his surroundings. “The Pax work is a poetic pause in the frenetic pace of MTV,” he says. It is a way to “reflect the appetite of spirituality” in viewers.

“Kevin has the ability to communicate deep thoughts succinctly in unanticipated ways,” says Tina Exarhos, MTV’s evp of marketing. “He is probably the most soulful person at MTV.”

Mackall and his team of 12 creatives produce about 3,500 promos a year to hype the network and its shows. Recent work includes an irreverent series from the fictional “Ministry of Youth Culture Commission” showing how MTV corrupts modern youth. Borrowing graphics and language from vintage West German instructional videos and casting actors who look like they stepped out of a time machine gives the work an authentic tone. “We want the audience to do a double take because they don’t realize what they just saw,” Mackall says.

Mackall began as a producer for VH1 and MTV in 1992 and steadily worked his way up the ranks. He was promoted to his current post two years ago, just as media content distribution was exploding. As a result, many of his ads also run on broadband and wireless channels, and he is producing more material specifically for digital use. The new outlets give MTV a chance to “reinvigorate its identity,” and the ads can “glue the components of our brand to a disparate audience,” he says.

“Often, outsiders think MTV is like a college party running amok, and are shocked at how buttoned-up and professional we are,” he adds. To handle the volume of work, they have to be. “It helps to have MTV and music in your blood,” says Mackall, who has been playing bass guitar since he was 10. “At the same time, we are not about having brand unity like Nike, with the Nike campus full of Nike employees wearing Nike stuff. I am not interested in putting my stamp on everything. My strength is to allow a creative idea enough room to breathe—some would say enough room to gasp and die. That’s what keeps us from turning into just another promo factory.”