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MTV gives voice to AIDS cause


MTV launched an inter­national cause-related marketing campaign last week encouraging youths to speak openly about sex and HIV/AIDS.


The effort is built upon Spin­Vox technology that lets con­sumers convert voice messages into digital text. Another force tapped by MTV for the cam­paign is the Causes application on Facebook, developed by Project Agape.

“We’re constantly looking at different ways to reach young people and educate them about this disease,” said Georgia Arnold, SVP of social respon­sibility at MTV, in an e-mail to DMNews. “Leveraging SpinVox’s unique technology in convert­ing voice messages into text and Causes’ 12 million members, is another effective way for MTV to reach this demographic and encourage them to talk openly and safely about HIV/AIDS,” she continued.

Ads featuring Destiny Child’s Kelly Rowland are appearing on MTV channels in several countries. The spots encourage young people to pick up the phone and talk about various sexual issues. Topics includes sex secrets, one-night stands and condoms. When they call in, callers hear Rowland’s voice again. They’re also asked to back up their actions with a donation to MTV’s HIV and AIDS charity the Staying Alive Foundation, thereby giving the six-week campaign its name: “Stand by what you say.”

“We strongly believe that encouraging young people to speak freely and openly about sex and HIV/AIDS is critical to erasing the stigma of this dis­ease,” Arnold said. “While there is no cure, we believe that this disease is largely preventable and treatable through education and communication. SpinVox’s unique technology encourages them to pick up the phone and share their experiences, advice, and concerns with each other.”

SpinVox’s technology automatically turns voice messages into text and posts them to a “Stand by what you say” blog, thereby extending the conversation and encouraging people to share and debate about the topic. The company has dedi­cated telephone numbers in the US, Canada, UK, Spain, Germany, France and Ireland.

Talking on the phone produces a “much more candid, emotional outpour­ing” than Web interactions, which are often done with a lot of forethought, said James Scroggs, VP of consumer business at SpinVox.

This is why combining SpinVox’s tech­nology with a social issue such as HIV/AIDScould “be powerful,” he said. In fact, by stimulating conversation about sex and HIV/AIDS, the groups involved believe that it might be possible to break down the stigma and discrimination that is often associated with the disease.

Using this method also provides a new channel of interaction with the Web. “I would like to think that people can pick up the phone and interact with the Web,” Scroggs said, adding that there’s a large portion of the population that is still not comfortable with the digital space.

The Staying Alive Foundation was founded in 1998, and provides grants to youth-led organizations that raise aware­ness on a local level.

“The ultimate goal [is] that [open and free sex] discussions both breakdown the stigma of HIV/AIDSand also break the barriers associated with the embar­rassment of talking about sex,” Arnold said. “As MTV’s Staying Alive campaign nears its 10th anniversary, we hope that campaigns such as this will continue to empower youth to effectively fight this disease.”

Twice a year, the foundation pres­ents MTV’s Staying Alive Awards, which are small grants that support innovative projects in schools, youth centers and clubs using radio, TV, print, online and personal interactions to reach at-risk youth and protect them from the multiple threats posed by HIV and AIDS. Half of all new HIV infections are in those under the age of 25.

Anyone making a donation to the “Stand by what you say” campaign has a chance of winning a “Stand by what you say” action figure, SpinVox’s “Speech Mobster.” SpinVox will also be matching funds raised up to $50,000.

The support coming from Causes on Facebook will include sending out 11 million e-mails to people around the world with conversation starters about sex and invitations to pick up the phone and talk about what they think.

SpinVox has already collaborated with several other marketers for campaigns using its technology, but this is the first time it has been applied to a cause-related marketing effort.

“It is very easy for brands and individ­uals to make observations about issues,” Scroggs said. “But to actually see them played out as concrete observations that could genuinely effect change felt like a compelling proposition.”

SpinVox also worked on a campaign for New York public radio station WNYCaround the Democratic and Republican Presidential primaries’ Super Tuesday. Listeners were invited to call in and speak their comments, which were converted to text and forwarded to the on-air hosts as e-mails.

WNYC received 700 calls, four times the interaction it would have normally had, Scroggs said. WNYC has since added SpinVox’s technology as regular offering to one of its shows.  

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