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MTV Political Campaign Ads: The End Of The World

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Sandwiched between ads for Trojan brand condoms and the latest CDs, election campaign ads will now wash over MTV fans leading up to the November election.

It's the first time the network has decided to accept political advertising since it launched in 1981. And it has done so warily.

In an effort to keep the content clean, the birthplace of high-brow product such as Bevis and Butthead and Tila Tequila will only air ads from political candidates and party political committees -- not from 527s, the technically unaffiliated and so unregulated organizations behind the worst of the smear campaigns in recent years.

MTV execs say the move will highlight its efforts to engage young eligible voters in the political process and promote youth issues and youth voices on the campaign trail. (Most recently, get-out-the-vote PSAs featuring the tabloids starlets of "The Hills.")

"It's a good thing when candidates want to reach out to young people and the best way to do that is through MTV," MTV's Executive VP of Communications told industry rag TVNewser.

That's commendable but it is also true that campaigns spend millions on media buys, a chunk of cash MTV has been passing on every four years at least. Campaigns devote upwards of 80 percent of their total budget on "paid" media, and most of that goes to television. MTV declined to say how much it expects to make off the deals, but there's no need to get out that calculus text book to see that 80 percent of a campaign that is going to cost an estimated $1 billion ain't no chump change.

Strategists think they've hit the goldmine in tapping into the youth vote.

"Now campaigns have the opportunity to reach young voters in a venue where they congregate," Democratic campaign strategist Tad Devine told TVNewser.

Except that young people know that MTV is not exactly the place where anyone congregates so much as Tivos and plows through at warp speed.

A version of this post appeared originally at Pop and Politics.