Over the past two years, CBS and Viacom have chosen to focus much of their public-service efforts on preventing HIV and AIDS.
The effort has been noticed: MTV has won an Emmy three years running for its HIV/AIDS work, Viacom and MTV won a Peabody last year, and the corporation received the Governor’s Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences this year for its comprehensive campaign on the epidemic.
For 2005, Viacom has made a $600 million advertising commitment to the campaign across all of its properties, says Tina Hoff of the Kaiser Family Foundation, Viacom’s partner on the effort. Kaiser also partners with Univision on a similar HIV/AIDS campaign.
In August, Viacom’s VH1, which reaches 87 million households, will present Tracking the Monster: Ashley Judd and India.Arie Confront AIDS in Africa, an emotional documentary in which the two stars work alongside local doctors put there by the Global Fund To Fight AIDS. The network’s ant-AIDS efforts extends to its Web site, VH1.com, which streams public-service announcements and features HIV-awareness facts.
“Nothing else gets as much attention from us as AIDS does,” says CBS Executive VP Martin Franks. “Several years ago, we felt we were giving attention to 200 causes and not breaking through on any of them. We made a conscious decision to focus on fewer issues and to try and put more weight on each of the issues that remained. AIDS was one we thought we could effect because it’s an entirely preventable disease.”
Says Hoff, “TV remains one of the best ways to reach any population in this country. And under the Viacom partnership, targeted prevention messages are provided in a context where people in different demographics can understand.”
Most of CBS’ public-service efforts come through donations of airtime and public-service announcements.
Along with the PSAs, each year, CBS offers its writers and producers an all-day seminar about HIV and AIDS, in the hopes that the information will work into related storylines in their programming.
CBS has significantly deepened its Web presence, developing CBSCares.com under the guidance of Matthew Margo, senior VP of program practices for the East Coast. “PSAs can’t really convey all the information that viewers need to know, information that could potentially save a life,” he says. “For every section we tackled, we tried to do it in a different and distinct way.”