MTV talks the 'walk with Red Carpet

Russell Samuel, Vice President, Creative Planning & Services, Be Viacom

A global music event on the scale of the MTV Europe Music Awards (or EMA as it’s now known) has a couple of important variables to distinguish: exposure and engagement. Exposure is relatively simple when the world’s press is eagerly feeding show footage and reports to audiences around the globe.

Engagement is another matter. The numbers and logistics make true fan-event-partner interaction necessarily remote. Or do they? MTV’s Russell Samuel was tasked to prove otherwise and transform fans from passive voyeurs into active participants. Here, he discusses his bridging initiative, Fanwalk, with Sat Bal.


What’s your role at MTV?

I’m responsible for BE VIACOM’s international commercial brand partnerships from a creative planning and services perspective, including the management and activation of our pan-international MTV EMA award sponsorships, of which the Fanwalk was one.


What were your aspirations for Fanwalk back in 2008?

The goal was to help Sony Ericsson achieve their objectives of connecting with MTV’s millennial audience and music fans and creating brand ambassadors;achieved through an activation platform that leveraged the scale and relevance of the MTV EMAs, enhanced their music and entertainment positioning within their sector and provided valuable promotional and content assets for their owned and operator partner channels both centrally and at local market level. 


Which partners did you work with and how was the  MTV network involved?

We worked in conjunction with Sony Ericsson and their agency Rebel Media on the Fanwalk campaign across the two years. From an MTV perspective, our role was to support Sony Ericsson and Rebel in providing the MTV EMA platforms and assets that helped amplify of the campaign.


Within BE VIACOM International, we have a client service team that work with each of our partners and they tap into the expertise across our brand channel networks as necessary on each campaign. A campaign like Fanwalk touched the spectrum of our international MTV network, as we supported it through on air commercials, the MTV EMA digital platform, our editorial channels and of course the main show production, with one of the Fanwalkers winning the chance to present an award within the live MTV EMA show.


What were the big challenges at the planning and execution stages?

From MTV’s perspective, the planning and execution focused around the integration of the Fanwalk into the MTV EMAs. That involved coordinating the integration of the campaign creative across the range of MTV EMA platforms (on air, digital, marketing, press) across all markets in Europe, facilitating the MTV EMA digital host Perez Hilton to meet and interview the winners as they arrived at the venue, create and distribute the resulting content across our linear and digital platforms and arrange the ultimate pay off for the campaign, with the winning Fanwalker co-presenting an award in the live show.

The challenge is in coordinating a campaign such as this across all of the teams within the network – main show production, digital production, news, channel schedulers, local sites, press, marketing, legal - but it is that expertise that BE VIACOM is able to offer our partners.


How prepared were the Fanwalk winners for what lay ahead?

I don’t think anyone can prepare for the experience of presenting alongside and to some of their musical heroes, on a show broadcast live to millions of people across the globe. However, both winners did very well and had the very vocal support of the other Fanwalkers inside the auditorium! 


What did you learn from the Fanwalker events and how might it change your approach to the audience-live event show interplay?  

To date, three years after the Fanwalk campaign officially ended, the Fanwalkers remain in touch with one another and both MTV and Sony Ericsson. By creating a brand experience and content that was relevant and engaging to the audience, MTV and Sony Ericsson have created long-term brand advocacy. Millenials are looking for experiences and content to participate in, customise and share across their network. Interactivity and engagement remain at the heart of the MTV EMAs with gamification and socially enabled functions key components of this year’s digital platform and its’ success.



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