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MTV Wants you to be the Mayor of STD – I Don’t Think So

MTV Wants you to be the Mayor of STD – I Don’t Think So


By: Chris Michaels, Senior Account Manager, Fusion LA (@chrisamichaels)

Normally, I’m totally “Gung-Ho” about supporting grassroots movements around causes – especially ones that have to do with public health, aid or relief efforts. If someone were to ask me, “would you help spread the word about UNICEF and GivePAK’s efforts to send aid to Pakistan,” I’d be all over it.

But sometimes, I wonder if it’s appropriate for companies and organizations to use social media vehicles to carry the banner for their causes. A few months ago, I talked about a discussion with a client, where we examined how people like to ride the buzz wave of new platforms, regardless of audience or interaction appropriateness.

I think MTV has fallen into that trap.

For years, we tuned into MTV for its outlandish claims by VJ’s, the tight bodies at “Spring Break” and recently, the antics of the guidos and Snooky on “Jersey Shore.” They championed the “Rock the Vote” campaign and made headlines for its rally around HIV awareness, after a “Real World” cast member died of the disease.

But today, MTV is making new waves, in a way I don’t know is wise. Today, in the PRWeek Technology Newsletter, I read that MTV is launching a new “viral” campaign with Foursquare. In order to promote its’ “GYT: Get Yourself Tested” campaign, MTV is sponsoring a badge that is earned when people go to a medical clinic and get tested for sexually transmitted diseases.

I’m curious if the marketing managers carefully considered what a badge really says to one’s friends, should they “earn” it. I mean, as a Foursquare addict, if I unlocked the badge I’d basically be saying: “I’m sexually promiscuous and don’t know my last partner(s) too well;” or “I passed out drunk at the Jersey Shore and now I have a ‘situation.’” Really?

It’s great to see an important cause rally around a platform to get the word out and promote getting tested. Sure, the program’s marketing managers meant well, but intentions don’t mean a thing when execution gets in the way.

First of all, they needed to evaluate the appropriateness of the platform. Secondly, should they have wanted to use Foursquare, they needed to find a more appropriate way of doing so than offering a badge for checking-in (an action that is immediately broadcasted to your friends and connected social channels on your behalf, and can’t be undone). And lastly, they needed to evaluate the potential rhetorical impact on people broadcasting their sexual behavior or medical appointments.

I’m not saying that people don’t need to get tested. Actually, I support efforts for people to have a quick annual screening, should they need it. But save yourself the public embarrassment and earn the clean-bill of health “badge” from your doctor, not Foursquare.

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