When advertisers take to MTV’s long-running “Video Music Awards” these days, they hope viewers will be just as interested in what interrupts the action as the trophy-winners.
Many of the show’s most intriguing commercials will be as eye-catching as the show’s musical segments and celebrity appearances. In fact, ad sales executives at Paramount Global, MTV’s corporate parent, say this year’s awards effort has more presence in advertisers’ products than any other year since the show debuted in 1984. Sponsors are “converting normal commercial time to branded content,” said Dario Spina, chief marketing officer of Velocity, a Paramount unit that works to create specialized ad execution for the company’s content.
In years past, it was enough to get a car or a soda can to show up in traditional fashion. In 2003, for example, Motorola and Cingular Wireless sponsored a trivia contest that appeared during commercial breaks, and in 2004, MTV displayed a statue of its signature “Moon Man” made of car parts to support General Motors’ Saturn commercial. .
Not everyone can get access to such things. According to Karen Phillips, executive vice president of convergent sales at Paramount Global, advertisers who want to develop such ideas must buy a large package of inventory, some of which may appear on other programs or at other points in the year. He declined to discuss pricing, but in 2005, a VMA sponsorship program could cost between $4 million and $7 million and was available only to advertisers who committed to spending about $10 million with MTV for the upcoming TV season. One can assume that these figures have increased over the years.
Even a single ad on MTV’s VMAs can be considered pricey. A 30-second spot on air last year cost about $191,000, according to Standard Media Index, a tracker of ad spending.
It comes as the awards show’s flagship broadcast is losing viewers. MTV’s broadcast of the 2021 VMAs averaged 900,000 viewers for the live show — down 32% from 1.32 million in 2020 (Paramount countered last year that the program’s total minutes used by various distribution methods had increased). The VMAs are broadcast across multiple Paramount global holdings, including VH1, The CW, Comedy Central, Nick At Night, Pop, TV Land, MTV2, Logo, Paramount Network, BET, BET Her and CMT.
In 2022, companies and advertisers have upped the ante. Just showing on screen won’t do the trick. Many of the new executions will prompt viewers to look to social media or rely more on some of the musicians and celebrities who attended the trial. Paramount staff played a large role in trying to tie advertising efforts more closely to the show and its participants.
Doritos, made by PepsiCo’s Frito-lay, will use the VMAs to launch a “triangle tracker,” or a lens on Snapchat that creates virtual chips whenever users point their smartphones at a triangle. Virtual-reality shapes can then be used to win prizes. Doritos is also sponsoring an “extended play stage” featuring four up-and-coming musicians giving short-form performances.
Mars Wrigley’s Extra Gum will sponsor the show’s Best New Artist award. Advertisements that appear in and around the program tell Ava Max about the stressful life changes that winning the honor can bring about and ask viewers to vote until the trophy is presented. Burger King will run a series of custom ads that seek to redefine the concept of “royalty.”
Instacart, a first-time sponsor of the event, will sponsor Lizzo’s VMA performance. He will be featured in a new Instacart ad campaign that aims to highlight how the company helps the shopping experience. Laura Jones, Instacart’s chief marketing officer, said the company’s ad will appear shortly after its show launches. “We’re ushering in a new era of shopping inspiration by celebrating the promise that with Instacart, everyday moments can turn into new worlds of possibility,” he added.
Meanwhile, Toyota aims to add more surprises to the proceedings. The giant automaker will give a nod to its new Corolla Cross, and will team up with Ken Brown, who will give his first performance at the VMAs. Toyota also aims to attract attention with a series of virtual-reality displays that will appear during the program and after its commercial airing.
“All of our partners come to us for more than just media,” says Phillips