MTV Networks wanted to connect with audiences of its TV Land and Nick at Nite stations by developing a pro-social effort, but was challenged in finding an issue that viewers could get behind and also resonated with the stations.
"Our audiences repeatedly referred to TV Land and Nick at Nite as safe havens," says Marva Smalls, EVP of public affairs for MTV Networks Kids & Family Group.
So, after examining the programming, in which "most issues get resolved around the dinner table," says David Rawle, chairman of Rawle Murdy, which partnered with MTV, "we saw the opportunity was to promote families having dinner together."
"We wanted to elevate the importance and value of families reconnecting and sharing time together. We wanted to establish Nick at Nite and TV Land as champions of family togetherness," says Smalls. "This message focused on family table and eating, but family togetherness was something we could continue to evolve."
The approach was to use the power of air time, combine that with online, reach out through local cable affiliates to further push the message down on a local level, get support from national and local officials, and partner with a third-party organization that was credible in the community and that could provide research that supported the social value of families eating together.
MTV Networks backed the campaign with $11 million in on-air time and developed more than 20 PSAs featuring celebrities, including Jamie Lee Curtis, and also conducted a satellite press tour with Curtis.
It partnered with The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University on research efforts and on a National Family Day.
"National Family Day [aimed] to serve as a rallying call that if we could get people to focus on one day and they could see how easy and the benefits of eating and spending time together that day, it would serve as a jumping off point for them," says Smalls.
The team also developed an online campaign, with a Web site where families could pledge to participate in Family Day. It also featured tips for activities families could do at the table, conversation starters, and clips from TV Land shows set around the table.
Another element was direct mailings to community leaders, corporations, and officials, asking them to encourage their employees and constituents to go spend time with their families.
"To get 48 governors and the President to issue proclamations saying it's National Family Day showed us that it resonated on a national scale," says Smalls.
The satellite press tour reached at least 12 major markets, and, through the Web site, 1.3 million people pledged to participate in National Family Day.
Rawle says a post-launch survey of viewers revealed that 99% of respondents felt that the campaign was an important, appealing, positive initiative. "Me-too campaigns popped up," he adds. "The idea really caught on."
CASA and MTV Networks have continued to partner on Family Day each year, with September 25 being the most recent.
"We are constantly looking for ways to refresh the campaign," says Smalls. "We want to bring the same level of resources, as well as expand, now that we have more traction."
Going forward, the team will look to find more ways to take the effort beyond on-air
and into homes, according to Rawle Murdy.
PR team: MTV Networks (New York) and Rawle Murdy (Charleston, SC)
Campaign: Family Table
Duration: November 2003-ongoing
Budget: $45,000 (concept)
This campaign worked because MTV and Rawle Murdy didn't settle on promoting just any issue and worked to find one that resonated with viewers and tied in to the programming. By forging a solid partnership with CASA, MTV was able to back the efforts with research, establish credibility, and ultimately gain recognition from public officials and the President.
And by giving additional support to families, through the tools on the Web site, MTV was able to not only convey why eating together was important, but also facilitated how to do it.