Today, it’s my pleasure to feature an interview with Mattias Behrer, Senior VP and General Manager for MTV North Europe and MTV International Property Marketing. MTV is a widely-known music and entertainment brand that has been part of the youth culture across continents since 1981. MTV has established a very strong brand with massive TV audiences. Having expanded its focus away from only music into entertainment in general (think of Beavis and Butthead, as well some of the more recent reality shows), MTV has reached a very high level of brand awareness vis-a-vis its main audience — young people aged 13-29. My goal today, however, is to chat with Mattias about some of the aspects of MTV  that are perhaps less known to wide audiences. In particular, I’d like to talk about the role MTV plays in building brands of companies that advertise with it.

Olga Slavkina: Mattias, when I met you about a year ago during the launch of your book “How Cool Brands Stay Hot – Branding To Generation Y” , something interesting struck me in your presentation. It was the extent to which MTV goes when it works with advertisers. Unlike many other channels which simply show TV commercials, you actually work with your advertisers to make sure that they reach MTV’s audience in the most effective ways. Is this a correct summary?

Mattias Behrer, MTV

Mattias Behrer: Absolutely. At MTV we have more than a 100 researchers and analysts feeding all our teams across the world with the latest insights on youth culture, media habits and consumerism. We invest most probably more than any other media brand into the understanding of our target audience. In order to maximize the value for our advertisers and partners, we have specialized in using this knowledge while creating marketing solutions and communication concepts for them.

These client solutions are created and executed by our advertising unit called Brand Solutions. We pair our client’s marketing challenges and strategies with our youth insights and create communications that are relevant and engaging for the millennial generation. Essentially, we work like an advertising agency, adding our own TV, online and mobile platforms, 31 years of experience in communicating with young people, as well as creative heritage second to none. We are very proud to be able to work with ideas which travel across all media and always try to make the audience the main communicator of the message, leveraging the social aspect of all communication.

Olga Slavkina: How could you define a successful collaboration with an advertiser?

Mattias Behrer: Successful collaborations are always defined by meeting the objectives set by the advertiser. All concepts are created based on the advertiser’s goals, be it sales targets, brand positioning or engagement targets, number of entries for a competition, etc. We are always very conscious about breaking down the objectives defined by the clients, and we discuss unrealistic or poorly defined targets. I have to say that our brand solutions team has created a pretty impressive portfolio of successful cases by now, and I am proud to see that many clients keep coming back year after year. A good recent example is a campaign in Sweden, where Nike asked us to increase the sales of their running line by getting the attention and affection of a new target group – the young urban demographic.

Our concept, called Take Sthlm, was a real life running competition fueled by a 360 degrees integrated campaign with a multitude of social and viral elements. The inhabitants, opinion leaders and fans of each area of the city of Stockholm were encouraged to team up to defend the honor of their “hoods” and battle against each other using the Nike+ functionality to register miles covered. You could follow in real time online how the areas of the city were “taken over” by the respective teams.

It ended up being one of the most successful campaigns for Nike Sweden, boosting sales by 70% and their running line beat the football line for the first time ever. The fact that this campaign just won bronze in the Eurobest Awards last week was nice icing on the cake for us and our client.

Olga Slavkina: How do you make sure that your advertisers reach your audience with messages that are taken into account?

Mattias Behrer: The starting point is always to find the consumer’s “sweet spot” or proposition at the intersection of:

a) the client’s marketing challenge

b) the specific USP/ESP of the product or service

c) the client’s brand positioning

d) our applicable youth insights.

In relation to some concepts, we pre-test our material with the target audience, but generally it is about working with the most skilled researchers and planners we have in-house and sometimes with the client or their ad agency.

These analysts work with the audience every day, they know how to support our creative and marketing people with the insights needed to develop relevant communications which really move people emotionally. Our research is very much about understanding the fears, hopes and aspirations of Generation Y and advertising is always about engaging and incentivizing your audience to move closer to the desired state of mind. It is much easier today to know when you are doing the right thing. Most concepts carry an element of “social currency” brought to life through the combination of TV and digital media. Through the latter, we get instant feedback on how we are doing.

But in the end, it is about meeting the goals of the advertiser and sometimes short term sales targets are best met with ads that don’t necessarily get the highest liking in tests. We obviously need to tailor our concept development in order to always deliver on effectiveness and efficiency defined by our clients from one case to another.

Olga Slavkina: I’ve written quite a bit about the concept of so called meta-brands — overarching concepts which add positive associations to other brands which relate to them.  Can MTV be considered a meta-brand and why?

Mattias Behrer: MTV is very much a meta-brand. By staying true to our core mission and brand idea – empowering young amazing lives – and by always being guided by our core values, we can navigate in a credible way across the different interests and tribes of youth culture. We can engage with and build stories and values for a rocker, a skater, a rebel and an geek. As long as we stay true to ourselves and never pretend to be something else, we still have the breadth and depth of brand associations that can be selectively highlighted in different situations and appeal to different interests and aspirations from time to time.

In collaboration with MTV other brands can – without compromising their own brand identity – lend and benefit from some of the MTV associations (and of course our channels and platforms!) and be more daring in their communication. A couple of years ago we collaborated with the biggest bank in the Nordics and at the outset the perceived positioning of the two brands couldn’t be further apart. We managed to find a concept adopting a very creative and daring tone of voice and we helped to make the brand liking of this bank increase by double digits. Most importantly, the audience thought of the bank as one they would recommend to friends. We stayed true to our values and the audience by assuring that all activities gave something back to the audience – be it a laugh or an actual functional benefit.

The meta-brand relevance of MTV helped endorsing the relevance of the message. If the bank would have created the same communication on their own, they wouldn’t have been able to communicate with the audience in the same “relaxed” and credible manner – the audience would have held their guard up high.  We also asked the audience if they liked the collaboration between MTV and the bank and it scored very high on our test.

Olga Slavkina: how does MTV make sure that it knows its audience well?

Mattias Behrer:  In this dynamic, complex and rapidly changing media environment the starting point is to acknowledge the value of securing insights and make the effort to be constantly plugged into the values, attitudes and behaviors of our audience. We put research at the core of everything we do. We have people in our teams who know how to turn information into intelligence and inspiration for our daily actions across all areas of our business: creative, content, communication and commercial. We are increasingly creating a brand and research led company and this approach is encouraged from the very top.

Olga Slavkina: What issues, in your opinion, do young people in Europe care about today, and how does MTV reflect this in its programs?

Mattias Behrer: On average, the youngsters today are better educated, more connected, more positive about the future than any generation before them. They also have greater self-esteem, ambition and ability to make their voices heard, commercially and in general. They have grown up with parents encouraging and empowering them to believe in themselves and the fact that they can make a difference. Compared to previous generations, they have far fewer needs to rebel against parents, authorities or society at large; they typically don’t fight the system, they “game” it and try to make the best out of it.

They are ambitious optimists striving for both material and emotional success in life and they are willing to work hard to achieve it. At the same time they are conscious of and unwilling to sacrifice their work-life balance or spending time with friends and family, a sustainable environment or a humane society at large. Overall, we see that young people today have a very positive outlook at their world but they are at the same time aware of the issues around them. For MTV this means that we have to broaden our content stories in order to reflect some of the most relevant real time millennial issues such as bullying, aids, career and life enhancement, sexual health and even teen pregnancy and parenthood.

We do this through observational documentaries and scripted drama, but also by being even more involved in contemporary social activities beyond entertainment, and by being more authentic, emotional, warm and direct in the way we communicate. Two of the MTV  brand values say a lot about the mindset of Generation Y: for us Smart & Fun is the new Rock & Roll and Warm is the new Cool.

Olga Slavkina: Could you share some of MTV’s plans for the nearest future?

Mattias Behrer: I am very proud of our brand new international pro-social initiative MTV Voices, an online platform where we and other talented and passionate contributors from all around the world share and discuss interesting social issues, content, events and trends. You should check it out, in English at and in German at

This interview is part of the Funky Brand Interviews™ series originally published on the SCHMOOZY FOX blog, and has been reposted with permission. All images in this article were provided courtesy of MTV.  © 2012 SCHMOOZY FOX.