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From the 1st Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

MTV’s “Gender Bent”

Entered in Video


In the fall of 2015, MTV launched the gender phase of "Look Different," the brand's multi-year, Emmy- Award-winning anti-bias campaign. As part of the kick off, MTV released a new national gender bias study, which found that 74 percent of millennials feel that a more open, constructive discussion about gender equality will help people become less biased. However, despite the desire for more openness, only 24 percent of young people reported knowing where to turn when dealing with gender bias.

Recognizing this gap, "Look Different" aims to help MTV's audience look differently at and challenge the gender biases they encounter in their everyday lives ranging from street harassment, slut-shaming and the unintentional consequences of common "micro-aggressions," to workplace inequality, rape culture, masculinity, feminism, gender stereotypes and more.

MTV's study revealed that gender stereotypes and a pressure to conform to gender norms are particularly prevalent for the majority of millennials. For example, 63 percent of young females say people often assume they are incapable, emotional, or weak, while 56 percent of young males feel pressure to be capable, strong or unemotional. Armed with these findings, MTV sought to launch a video campaign that would highlight the pressures and assumptions stemming from gender norms, educate its audience on the absurd history of gender stereotypes, and spark action among millennials.

Strategy and Execution

In response to the need expressed by millennials for a source to turn to when dealing with gender bias, MTV launched the "Gender Bent" PSA campaign, featuring a series of animated video shorts focused on breaking down the origin of gender norms. The three-video series includes "Pink is for Girls, Blue is for Boys," "Boys are Better at Math," and "Men Don't Cry." The videos debuted across MTVs digital platforms during Women's History Month and were supported with short, 15-second promos on MTV's linear channel as well.

Each video, featuring a surreal, animated style, reveals important but little known facts, including that pink was long considered a color for boys, women played an enormous role in the invention of computer science, and crying was thought of as extremely manly from ancient times until the 20th century. Delivered in a bitingly funny tone, the videos feature voiceovers from actor and activist Kal Penn, MTV News correspondent Ana Marie Cox, and Nessa, a radio personality from Hot97 and comedian from MTV's Girl Code.

To offer context for the the videos and resources to learn more about gender bias, the Gender Bent campaign engaged audiences across MTV's social media platforms. Posts on Tumblr and Medium took a deeper dive into the history of gender norms and provided examples of each norm in popular culture. The videos and this accompanying content were also supported by posts on the MTV Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook accounts. Additionally, "Look Different" launched a content hub,, where the audience could find resources on gender norms and more background for each video. Gender Bent also coincided with the launch of the Look Different Medium publication, which provided an outlet for Look Different to premiere more long form content alongside the videos.

To drive additional awareness and reach new audiences, "Look Different" also launched a connected hashtag campaign, #HotGuysWill. The campaign aimed to highlight relatable guys doing activities that would normally be deemed "feminine" to challenge stereotypes and prove men aren't defined by the masculine gender norms dictated by society. "Look Different" leveraged assets sourced from well-known pop culture reference points, including movies, television and paparazzi shots, to be shared across MTV and "Look Different" platforms. To spark additional engagement, "Look Different" also encouraged followers to use the hashtag with photos of themselves and friends across all social media platforms.

In order to launch the #HotGuysWill hashtag campaign, "Look Different" partnered with the successful viral Instagram account Hot Dudes Reading. The Instagram brand created an original piece of content showcasing a man getting in touch with his emotions by reading The Fault In Our Stars. The piece was launched on Hot Dudes Reading's Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, as well as MTV's Instagram.


Overall, the Gender Bent campaign was a resounding multiplatform success, resulting in engagement, education, and discussion around challenging gender norms.

The three Gender Bent videos garnered nearly 250,000 online views across Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, and Twitter. Additionally, the partnership between Look Different and Hot Dudes Reading, which boasts almost 1M followers, generated nearly 90,000 interactions and was responsible for Hot Dudes Reading's best performing tweet to date. Notably, rapper Kid Cudi shared the #hotguyswill post featuring him, yielding nearly 2,000 interactions on that piece of content alone.

Additionally, a variety of top tier media outlets covered the campaign, including Fast Company, Teen Vogue, Refinery 29 and Bustle. Media highlights include:


Video for MTV’s “Gender Bent”

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