MTV Interactive, MTV’s online division, sponsored a stunt for New Year’s Eve that relocated six young Americans for a week in the bowels of Times Square as a kind of survival squad. Their stay was called the Bunker Project - The Real World meets the end of the world. The task for the PR team was to sell the story to the Y2K-stunt-weary media.
MTV Interactive, MTV’s online division, sponsored a stunt for New
Year’s Eve that relocated six young Americans for a week in the bowels
of Times Square as a kind of survival squad. Their stay was called the
Bunker Project - The Real World meets the end of the world. The task for
the PR team was to sell the story to the Y2K-stunt-weary media.
A three-strong press department works to enhance the profile of MTV
Interactive, which is expected to announce an IPO date soon. The
division includes MTV.com, VH-1.com and Sonic Net. The mission was to
engage the media in a project originated by the Web team in order to
distinguish itself from the MTV cable station.
Communications manager, Deirdre McNamara brainstormed with colleagues
Mark Pasetsky and Graham James about potential angles for the print and
TV media, then simply got on the phone and pitched.
Working with limited resources, the team opted against producing
expensive press kits and B-roll, but let the strength of the idea speak
While McNamara has a media story to tell every day, it was important
that this project generate more attention because of its unusual
The producers placed an ad in The Village Voice looking for candidates
to take part in a project that would preserve representatives of the MTV
generation should a Y2K disaster eradicate life as we know it. The young
participants, who were actually located in a basement underneath the New
York Times building, received training about survival underground from
US army trainers, who fed them dried meals.
McNamara felt it was important to get the word out about the project
ahead of the candidates being selected. She chose USA Today and got a
small piece in the Lifelines section. ’We really wanted something that
would start the machine rolling,’ says McNamara. From then on, they
bagged a feature in The New York Times’ House and Homes section about
the futuristic design of the basement. Then came an item in the New York
Post’s Page Six wondering how the male-female mixed team would get
McNamara also chose to exploit the local press, pitching one of the
participants to hometown newspaper the Cleveland Plain Dealer and
another to The Stamford Advocate and Newsday. That helped drive interest
from the Associated Press, which then picked up the ball. From then on
the story went global, with The London Evening Standard visiting the
bunker and Agence France Press filing alongside The Sydney Morning
NBC’s Today show agreed to do before and after interviews with two of
the participants - dubbed ’bunkernauts.’ Access Hollywood also dedicated
a segment to the piece. The online media also covered the event, with an
unlikely candidate, CBS Marketwatch, picking up the concept.
The result of the coverage drove up traffic. Unique visitors for the
week of January 2, 2000 reached 800,000, pushing the site to the
number-one TV Web site, beating rivals Eonline, Discovery.com and ABC’s
Another New Year’s eve story maybe? ’Er, maybe in a thousand years,’