This is not your parents' public-interest campaign. When MTV reaches out to young viewers, it does it the way it does everything else—with attitude. While so many programs have names that are lofty (Global Education Partnership) or pleading (Save Our History) or cheerfully upbeat (On With the Show), MTV simply lays it on the line. It's an election year, so it's up to you: Choose or Lose.
"The name is a call to action," says MTV President Van Toffler. (The network's other campaigns take a similar tone: Enough is Enough was anti-violence, and Protect Yourself focused on sexually transmitted diseases.) "We definitely don't want a passive approach. We're very in-your-face with an open, straightforward dialogue, which is what you'd expect from us."
MTV homes in on the issues, not fluff. "We listened to our audience, who let us know we would have been remiss not to address these issues.
"MTV," Toffler adds, "has devoted more time and money to pro-social campaigns than any network in history. We have given over hundreds of millions of dollars in airtime alone."
This year's campaign is called 20 Million Loud, and its goal is to get 20 million people ages 18-30 to vote in November, which would be about a 10% jump from the nearly 18 million who voted last time around. (In 2000, the votes split almost equally between the two major parties.) MTV is teaming up with Rock the Vote, Hip-Hop Team Vote and the Harvard University Institute of Politics. The network is arranging for a young adult to speak at each convention in prime time. MTV's Gideon Yago fronts much of the coverage.
Choose or Lose, launched in 1992, was the flagship initiative for the network. Toffler thinks MTV has influenced the way candidates run, forcing them to address issues that concern young voters. "You better not forget about them any longer," he says. "You better talk about things like paying for education. And the war in Iraq is being fought by our audience."