In 2018, young people were leading the charge for social change – from speaking up against injustice to marching for the causes that matter to them. To keep the momentum going, MTV created its first-ever midterm elections campaign, +1 the Vote. The campaign was based on research insight that friendship is one of the most powerful motivators for civic action – peer-to-peer influence is stronger than any ad. Instead of commanding the audience to vote, MTV gave them the tools and resources to vote, and to encourage friends to do the same.
MTV has a long history of running voter engagement efforts but this one was entirely unique in approach. We led a three-month campaign with two phases: registration and turnout. The campaign called on young people (ages 18-29) to invite a “+1” to vote with them. We launched during our biggest night of the year, the VMAS, with an innovative, first-of-its-kind digital buddy system that enabled our audience to identify and message friends who aren’t registered to vote. Celebrity talent tagged their +1’s via social media shout-outs, also engaging their unique fanbases in the challenge. To encourage voter turnout, MTV teamed up with #VoteTogether to give away voting party grants in 50 states, bringing out more than 20,000 people and capping off with a massive party at Miami Dade College in Florida. Over a three month span, the AP saw a 20% increase in youth who said they were “extremely” likely to encourage a friend to vote.
In a crowded midterm election season, MTV needed a name that would cut through and immediately establish intentions. We know our audience feels that the establishment and political system are corrupt, so our campaign needed a fresh, dynamic name, visual identity, and content strategy.
+1 the Vote tied to a clear concept already pervasive: who is your +1? All of the spots started from a place of friendship and fun, rather than a place of weighty issues or topics that could turn away young people with certain ideologies. By announcing +1 the Vote during the VMAs with an on-air and digital spot, we took advantage of its largest viewing audience of the year.
+1 the Vote’s concept of friendship made it easily adaptable and flexible for other networks, talent, and brand partners. We were able to tap into Viacom’s 15 networks (including BET and Comedy Central) to develop a spot that hinged on all of the most iconic friendships across the company. At the same time, MTV knew that Viacom alone couldn’t get the largest possible target audience, so +1 the Vote also developed 10 nonprofit partnerships (including Planned Parenthood and the Center for American Progress) and leveraged relationships with talent for organic content. For example, Yara Shahidi sponsored the grant program, and stars like Lauren Jauregui and Ricky Martin posted on their own Instagrams about the campaign’s registration and check-up tool as well as the Election Afterparty. On social, MTV brand published low-fi talent videos rather than overly produced content – videos that felt authentic and direct from talent. Creating culture and community around voting – making it social – is more impactful than making it feel like a chore.
Given how distinct and non-partisan the message was, brands like Postmates, Tinder, Giphy, and AwesomenessTV were eager to amplify the campaign and helped +1 the Vote meet the audience where they were by leveraging paid media on Snapchat and Twitter. +1 the Vote also reached audiences not previously tapped with spots in Spanish on MTV Tr3s – a Spanish language network. Instead of just asking people to go vote – the traditional and tried tactic – MTV asked young people to show up or host a party at their polling location. These IRL voting events in all 50 states helped actually bring young people out to vote by making voting about celebration, community, and friendship. And finally, the +1 the Vote Election Afterparty event in Miami featuring Fat Joe, Pretty Much, Liza Koshy, Lauren Jauregui, and others was more like a music festival and Instagrammable exhibit than a political rally. Friendship was the driving force of this campaign.
Over a three-month span, the AP saw a 20% increase in youth who said they were “extremely” likely to encourage a friend to vote (31% in June vs. 37% in October). Of those who’d heard of MTV’s +1 the Vote, 66% said they’d try to encourage a friend to vote in the midterms (vs. 38% of those who hadn’t). MTV was part of a chorus of voices that supercharged youth turnout – 31% of youth (ages 18-29) turned out to vote in the 2018 midterms – the highest turnout in 25 years. The campaign garnered over 140 press hits and over 80.5M impressions, and the website had over 400K web page views. Celebs, musicians, and influencers supported the campaign or created content, including Lauren Jauregui, Chrissy Teigen, LL Cool Jay, Chloe x Halle, Liza Koshy, Fat Joe, Ashanti, Snooki, Adam Rippon, Macklemore, Ricky Martin and Bebe Rexha.