MTVN Upfront Keys on Accountability

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert killed at last night’s MTV Networks upfront presentation, kicking off a 90-minute spree designed to underscore the company’s unique bond with its younger target demos.

Sounding for all the world like a man who subsists on a steady diet of trade magazines, Stewart immediately got the ball rolling Thursday evening (May 8) when he looked around at the media buyers seated before him in the Nokia Theatre and said that he had been under the impression that the industry had given up on the standard dog-and-pony pitch.

“I thought we didn’t do this anymore,” Stewart cracked. “I thought that was supposed to be the point of the writers strike…so we wouldn’t have to do this shit anymore.”

It was MTVN’s first concentrated upfront show since 2006, when Stewart poked fun at the prevailing mania for the so-called “third screen” platforms by telling buyers that MTV “actually has a show that’s delivered through Jell-O shots.”

This time around, the host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show proved to be just as clued-in to the memes and buzzwords that have defined the 2008-09 upfront conversation, cracking wise about product integration, target demos and the halo effect advertisers enjoy when housed in particularly engaging media environments.

“Your 30-second spots–and I call them mini-operas–extol the virtues of products that are both needless and unwanted,” Stewart said, noting that Comedy Central’s core 18-34 audience is particularly attuned to such messaging. “They have a lot of disposable income, they’re impressionable, and they trust us, and I think you can exploit that.”

Colbert literally embodied MTVN’s success with integrated marketing, joining Stewart on the Nokia stage with a party-size bag of Doritos Cool Ranch tortilla chips, from which he snacked, um, liberally.

“We be-dusted Colbert Nation with the orange fingers of truth,” Colbert said, reminding buyers that the snack brand had sponsored his doomed bid to gain the Republican nomination in the 2008 presidential race.

Before wrapping up their 10-minute bit, the comedians had some fun with certain bold-faced names in the audience. Stewart said that he was excited to be working with new OMD chief Chris Geraci “or Gerassi, or however he pronounces it,” and Colbert pledged his devotion to Zenith vice chairman Peggy Green.

Later in the evening, Comedy Central’s Sarah Silverman performed a naughty ditty professing her love for Group M chief Rino Scanzoni. “I’m looking to have a partnership, if you will, with him,” Silverman said before breaking into her number.

After having serenaded Scanzoni, Silverman protested that she hadn’t been so effusive in her praise for the buyer “just because he buys all the ad space on my show and more or less holds my entire life in his hands.”

One joke that had MTVN execs cringing came courtesy of Chris Rock, who took the stage to hype his new affiliation with Nick-at-Nite. (Rock’s Everybody Hates Chris will join the Nick-at-Nite prime-time lineup in fall 2009.)

“Four of 10 Nickelodeon parents were Nick viewers when they were kids,” Rock said. “Which isn’t surprising when you’re having kids when you’re 16. …We do have that show with Britney Spears’ sister, right?”

The real meat of the evening came at the end of the show, when MTVN ad sales capo Hank Close trumpeted the company’s newly formed partnership with Marketing Evolution, a custom market research and consulting firm. Working with Marketing Evolution, Close and his team will offer clients a suite of “Effectiveness Marketing” metrics, proprietary data analysis that is designed to help advertisers get a better handle on how their dollars are working for them on MTVN platforms.

“This represents a major breakthrough in marketing accountability. Nothing like this exists in the marketplace today,” Close said. “We’re a different MTV Networks…and we’re committed to being your best media partner.”

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