Sharpie Doodles Could Get Teens on MTV

Brand runs digital contest centering on user-generated art

Sharpie wants to get teenagers doodling. The brand has launched a back-to-school campaign that gives them a chance to have their Sharpie-made "artwork" featured during MTV’s forthcoming Video Music Awards.

In a teens-minded effort called “Start with Sharpie Challenge,” consumers can go to the company’s Facebook page and listen to “Purple,” a song by the indie pop band California Wives. Participants are supposed to use the tune for inspiration for their artwork, which they are instructed to make with a Sharpie marker. Then, they need to take a picture of their creation and upload it to the initiative’s online gallery before Aug. 6.

Selected pieces will appear in a 60-second spot during MTV’s VMAs on Sept. 6. In addition to the best doodles, the television commercial will feature music-video-styled footage of California Wives as their song, “Purple,” plays in the background.

After the spot airs, the contest participants who didn’t get to see their artwork on TV will be able to customize the same commercial to include their Sharpie-made portait on the campaign’s Facebook page. They will be encouraged to share their versions of the spot with friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter.

During the next six weeks, an integrated media plan will unfold to push the interactive contest. For television, 30-second spots will run on MTV and Fuse. Fifteen-second online videos will appear on, Fuse.TV, Ally, Vevo and Sharethrough.

Sharpie will run Facebook Marketplace ads through September. It is targeting Facebook friends of the brand's three million fans on the social site, as well as other users who “like” the same pages for movies and music as its fans. And the brand is aiming Promoted Tweets at Twitter users who have similar profiles to Sharpie's 217,000 followers.

Popular teen bloggers have also been enlisted in the effort, which overall represents a collaboration between ad agency DraftFCB, PR firm Ketchum and viral technology vendor Zocalo.

Ryan Rouse, a senior brand manager at Sharpie, Oak Brook, Ill., said creating engagement and sharing among teens are the effort’s key goals.

“Traffic and uploads to [our campaign site] will be important measurements for us in terms of determining success,” he said. “Second is community development. How big and how engaged is our community on Twitter, on Facebook? Are those growth rates where we want them to be?…Finally, the ultimate goal is an overall increase in back-to-school sales.”

It’s the second consecutive year Sharpie has worked with MTV for back-to-school season. Last year’s effort was focused on a one-day homepage takeover ad on YouTube that—like the current campaign—employed user-generated artwork done with a Sharpie.

“We had to figure out a way to extend the conversation beyond the one big showcase activation,” Rouse said. “We are upping the engagement this year.”