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MTV getting socially active

Think:MTV.com taps celebrities for awareness

MTV is launching a social-activism initiative that will encompass television and new media — while also selling ads and raising its profile among the slippery demo that is its target aud.

Venture, called Think:MTV.com, aims to combine celebs and activism in a manner similar to Product Red, the Africa-centric for-profit which has raised awareness and money via brands such as Motorola and Gap.

MTV’s program won’t raise money, but it will seek to increase awareness among viewers and users.

Among Think’s strands is a campaign for students to take on activist roles in politics and the environment; a video- and blog-heavy site that aims to educate on issues from “discrimination” to “war and peace”; and tries to turn young people into media critics via a $500 prize for the best ideas on how to reform journalism.

“People can get scholarships from going to this site,” said MTV prexy Christina Norman. “This shows young people that we’re walking the walk and jumping off the screen and website, and being relevant in their lives.

Site will accept ads (albeit socially conscious ones, execs say) and will generally try to fit the company’s strategic business goals of retaining and boosting viewers at a time when critics wonder about the net’s ability to maintain a hold on its core 12-24 demo.

Programming will also figure into the effort; among the manifestations will be MTV News coverage of viewers who undertake activism as a result of the campaign, as well as socially conscious elements integrated into shows like long-running franchise “The Real World.”

 A number of celebs have signed on to promote the effort, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Rock, Shakira and Bono. Access to those celebs and MTV events will be among the prizes for involvement with the site.

 The United Nations, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Declare Yourself are among the official causes the initiative will support. Project is supported by a number of nonprofits, including the Gates Foundation and the Case Foundation.

Ian Rowe, MTV’s veep of strategic partnerships and public affairs, noted that the decision to create Think:MTV.com grew out of a study showing a wide gap between the interest in activism and the willingness to engage in it.

Program also fits with earlier incarnations of MTV’s activism drives, such as its safe sex campaigns as well as the youth-voting initiative “Choose or Lose.”

And the net already has a Think MTV division, which works with nonprofits and airs specials on various causes. 

But MTV has never sought to create a community for the initiatives, or, for that matter, build a framework this broad to house a host of causes and celebs.

“We’ve been on a continuum for a long time, and this is the next phase of how we’ll continue not just to talk to young people but to engage them,” Rowe said.

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