How MTV is working with influencers and brands for the VMAs

Viacom and MTV have recruited social influencers to create content surrounding the upcoming Video Music Awards — and have gotten show sponsors in on the action as well.

In July, MTV launched an eight-part series under its “MTV Guide To” franchise to dispense sex, dating and relationship tips. Sponsored by Trojan Brand Condoms, the first four episodes focus on condom compliance and etiquette, with the last four focusing on more VMA-centric topics like “The After Party” and “The Standing O.” Hosted by YouTube stars Shannon Boodram and Josh Levya, new episodes of the series are published every Tuesday on MTV’s Facebook and YouTube channels leading up to the VMAs on Aug. 28.

The series was created for MTV and Trojan Condoms by MTV parent Viacom’s in-house branded-content agency Velocity Content Network. Launched in March, VCN, which has grown to 24 employees, looks to tap Viacom’s extensive distribution capabilities to help clients make videos for social and digital platforms — with some of the material also appearing on TV.

For Trojan Condoms, VCN put up full episodes of “Guide To” on YouTube, Facebook and MTV.com, but it also created shorter promotional and behind-the-scenes content for Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. For instance, back in May, Boodram and Levya took over MTV’s Snapchat Discover channel for a day to take viewers behind the scenes of the “Guide To” shoot. No ads ran on the channel that day, with all of the content devoted to “Guide To.” Some of that footage was later re-edited to run as ads on the Discover channel on Aug. 9 and 13, and will be used again during the VMA Snapchat Live Story next week.

Other distribution channels for MTV and Trojan Condoms include Facebook Live, where Boodram hosted four different Q&A segments that generated 900,000 views, and Boodram and Levya’s own social accounts. Some of the material will also be used for commercials during the VMA show itself.

This distribution footprint is a key selling point for VCN with advertisers. “We need to be really focused on the distribution strategy first and then to create content around how people are interested in consuming it on different platforms,” said Stephanie Berez, group brand manager for Trojan Condoms. In this context, VCN is the “full package,” she said, opening up access to different social platforms on the strength of established media properties like MTV.

The marquee nature of the VMAs also helps VCN in battling for branded-content dollars. As far as live events go, the show has become fairly social, generating tons of chatter before, during and after the broadcast. For instance, the Snapchat Live Story during last year’s show drew 12 million views. The show was also the most-tweeted TV program of all time with 2.2 million people in the U.S. posting 21.4 million VMA-related tweets, according to Nielsen.

It’s why Trojan Condoms is not the only advertiser employing VCN for the VMAs. A majority of VMA sponsorships have a VCN component in the deals, according to Lydia Daly, svp of Viacom Velocity. Starbucks, for instance, is sponsoring a four-city travel series starring YouTubers Damon and Jo, which culminates with an episode devoted to the VMAs.

Going forward, Viacom plans to deploy VCN for live events across all of its channels — though that’s not necessarily the focus, said Daly. “You can do a campaign that has nothing to do with a tentpole or any of our channel brands,” she said.

With a social reach of more than 760 million followers across all of Viacom’s different channels and shows, it’s highly unlikely an advertiser would ignore that distribution footprint — it’s key to the pitch.

“If the audience is consuming content on social, we need to be in that space,” said Daly. “That doesn’t mean ignoring traditional mediums; it just means evolving the distribution strategy.”

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