Thursday, September 22, 2005


Who says that MTV has fostered a generation of slackers?

Viewers of the network have without doubt recently seen a little logo pop up in the middle of their favorite shows, urging them to “think.” Critics will argue that “thinking” is the last thing MTV viewers want to do, and that it’s a shame they have to be told when to do it. But—like it or not— MTV’s new “think” campaign is helping to create a more proactive, socially aware youth population.

The new “think MTV” campaign was launched on May 17th of this year. It’s not a new concept for the network. It’s merely taking the “Choose or Lose,” “Vote or Die,” “Fight For Your Rights” approach one step further. Through interactive programming and a website committed to engaging viewers, think MTV is trying to cultivate a youth culture that is actively involved in the issues that affect them.

Initially, the campaign is focusing on five broad areas: discrimination, education, environmental issues, global issues, and their own sexual health. Through the website,, viewers are encouraged to volunteer in their own communities, providing information on local charities by zip code.

Think MTV has been integrated into the network’s programming on several levels. First, entire shows that deal directly with think issues are being aired regularly. For example, the network recently aired an episode of “Diary” which followed Angelina Jolie and Dr. Jeffrey Sachs as they traveled through the poorest parts of Africa. While watching it, viewers were urged to log on to the think website to find out how they can help end extreme poverty on a global-wide level.

I recently visited the website and found that there are currently ten different features posted. Hurricane Katrina relief is prominently displayed, providing downloadable tracks from the ReAct Now concert. (All proceeds from the downloads go to relief projects.) There is also a feature in which “Real World New Orleans” cast members talk about the impact of Katrina. But effort to generate interest and support for charitable causes doesn’t begin or end with Katrina relief.

Visitors to the website are urged to learn about discrimination and take a stand against it. They are taught how to get health insurance, and exposed to the problems in civil-war-torn Congo. They are given tips on how to pay for college and how to protect themselves against HIV and other STDs. Web surfers can watch dozens of public service announcements that the network runs, and get more information on how to get involved.

It really is a good thing.

But does it work? Yes, for many reasons. First, MTV has, since its inception, been the barometer of “cool.” With the new think campaign, viewers are bombarded with the message that it is not just cool, it’s critical to proactively do something to help the world around you. The message is that educating oneself on the issues is only the first of several steps necessary to make a difference. And apathy is unacceptable.

Sometime in the next week or so, spend a little time at and see how philanthropy just became cool again.

-From Pulse
September 22, 2005