Blog post
April 29, 2020

Isentia Conversations: with Helen McMurdo from MTV

In this week’s Isentia Conversations webinar, we chat to MTV’s Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, Helen McMurdo. Helen shares insights learned from MTV’s global “Alone Together” campaign, and ways of communicating with youth audiences during these times. We also share some of the trends we are seeing across social and traditional media from younger audiences.

Isentia’s Ally Garrett talks media trends among youth audiences

4:19 – We know organisations are always keen to understand how to better communicate with younger audiences. In relation to youth audiences, the mainstream media is talking about:

  1. Quality of education and the impact of remote learning – what does this mean for their future? How will it affect school leavers?
  2. Isolation and anxiety – what is the impact of mental health? What are young people’s coping mechanisms during this time?
  3. When will life be normal again? What does the future look like for young people? For everyone

5:44 – Social media platforms are where the majority of youth-focused conversations are taking place, which is normal, there’s just more of it. 

We need to be conscious that younger audiences aren’t always focused on younger content. And we need to be aware of the challenges younger audiences are facing such as reduced employment, remote learning, social isolation and some living environments may not be an ideal place for younger people.

6:30 – On a global level, we are seeing an increase in creativity on social media platforms.  Various TikTok challenges filmed inside a house are a result of this creativity. 

7:04 – It’s important to be aware of content that’s happening outside your bubble – see what other audiences are consuming and what fascinates them.  There is a definitive life-cycle of social media platforms, where younger audiences are the first to adopt, older audiences slowly come on board resulting in the platform becoming mainstream, and then younger audiences tend to leave. TikTok is currently moving through this lifecycle. 

7:38 – Instagram is the only outlier with these trends as it is used for visual content and its ease of shareability. Instagram introduced direct messages (DM’s) at a critical time, allowing people to share memes and content with each other.

10:00 – For better understanding youth audiences, here are some tips:

Follow influencers and see what they are doing and how they are doing it. Now is a great time to explore different platforms to see what is trending.

Be self aware when engaging with younger people, they will see through you quickly. It’s a time where authenticity and genuine content rings true.

Always consider the appropriateness of your communication or presence on apps such as TikTok.

Look at how brands interact with content creators on YouTube and the significance of these platforms with different industries, for example TikTok and music artists or the relationships with video streaming platforms, Twitch and Mixr video games.

Instagram and YouTube can be easier platforms to access to stay across trending personalities and content ideas.

Use different platforms or conduct research to find influential voices and see if there’s a connection you could make.

Helen McMurdo talks being #AloneTogether

13.05 – MTV recently launched its global campaign #AloneTogether. It was created because of alarming observations in the United States of young people not taking social distancing seriously. The campaign focuses on MTV and its audiences being alone together during the COVID-19 crisis.

13:55 – Being a global campaign, MTV Australia was given the option to localise the content for the Australian market. Global messaging included; ‘Slow the spread of COVID-19. Staying home saves lives.’ and ‘If you have symptoms, stay home!’

The messaging was initially thought to be too direct, instructive and heavy handed for the Australian market. It wasn’t until an incident at Bondi Beach, where tens of thousands of people were found not adhering to social distancing rules that the messaging was thought to be well aligned for Australian audiences.

15:10 – Locally, MTV wanted to deliver positive messages, a sense of connection as well as entertainment to their audience. They wanted to understand and support their audience and as young people are uniquely affected by the COVID-19 crisis – with reductions in working hours, possible unemployment and not living in households they have designed themselves – content was created that covered the full spectrum of informing and entertaining.

16:10 – Since the local launch of the campaign in late March, it has reached 1.1million people through organic social activity. Helen and her team picked up some insights along the way:

1. Be responsible even if you’re a youth brand. The #AloneTogether campaign has brought a lot of positive feedback and celebrity talent involved in the campaign happily used their social platforms to deliver the same instructive and direct messaging used by MTV. Some interesting statistics to support this; according to YPulse research, 60% of Generation Z’s and 45% of millennials think messaging that encourages social distancing is appropriate from brands. Interestingly, younger audiences are more likely to respond to instructive or informative messaging than older audiences and 24% of 13-39 year olds say humorous marketing about coronavirus is appropriate during this time.

2. Stay grounded and keep messaging real and authentic. This is more evident now than ever before. MTV is a brand that is built on celebrities and has re-imagined their own programs during this time. In response, they reworked vintage shows such as Cribbs and made it audience centric instead of celebrity centric

3. There’s an appetite for nostalgia – content viewing is up for any streaming organisation, yet since February, MTV have seen a dramatic increase in streaming of vintage throwback content including Laguna Beach (x 2 increase), The Hills (x 4 increase), and Geordie Shore (x 3.5 increase).

21:48 – Extending on this nostalgic theme, MTV implemented a daily live digital show called MTV Recess over a 2 week period. Each day, a different celebrity was interviewed at 10:50am (the traditional recess time) and the host and celebrity would eat throwback snacks such as Roll Ups and Maggi Noodles in their own homes. When  the ‘school bell’ rang they had to return to ‘class’.

Engaging content involving top celebrity talent has been more achievable during these times  because celebrities are home and available and very little preparation was needed to engage and achieve the desired sense of nostalgia.

23:24 – Music is truly having a moment right now. Millennials rate music as their number one coping mechanism to relieve stress. This is above exercise, watching content and talking to friends and family. MTV has seen a huge jump in the consumption of their music television channels across Foxtel, Fetch and Sky. 

Some of these channels include general entertainment (reality TV), however music channels are up 75% year on year which is more than the average media consumption across TV but more than the general entertainment channels.

24:27 – This large increase in music has seen MTV launch an App, ‘MTVUnpluggedAtHome’ where sets from international artists are recorded from their homes and shared. Local artists across Australia and New Zealand will follow suit from May 1.

25:36 – In summary, to effectively communicate with younger audiences, it’s about being responsible even, staying grounded, keeping it real, and embracing music.

If you would like to view other Webinar Isentia Conversations: Communicating through Change:

Isentia Conversations: with Katherine Newton at RU OK?

Isentia Conversations: with Bec Brown at The Comms Department

Isentia Conversations: with Rochelle Courtenay at Share the Dignity

Isentia Conversations: with Rachel Clements at Centre for Corporate Health


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