Buildings to Billboards: How Viacom is Tackling Social Issues
It’s almost time for spring-cleaning to commence, and that junk drawer in the corner of your kitchen isn’t the only thing that could use some sprucin’ up. The Internet is filled with clutter—from political rants on satirical news sites to therapeutic venting sessions in the comments section—sometimes meaningless commentary seems impossible to escape. But wait…there’s hope! Viacom recently launched a project that seeks to generate attention and incite change in regard to important social issues that are often ignored.
What’d they do?
Teaming up with Witness, a human rights organization co-founded by singer-songwriter Peter Gabriel, Viacom released a series of PSAs titled, “Witness the Power of Story.” The subject matter of each PSA is catered to support each of Viacom’s networks (MTV, BET, Spike, VH1 and CMT) with a social good campaign. In order to have the most poignant impact, these campaigns resonate with each networks’ target audience:
- MTV seeks to defy gender bias with their “Look Different” campaign
- BET’s “What’s At Stake” campaign aims to inspire and empower African-American millennials
- Spike raises awareness about veterans’ health issues with “Veterans Operation Wellness.”
- Save the Music Foundation by VH1 is committed to keeping music education in public schools.
- “Empowering Education” is CMT’s effort to improve rural education.
How’d they do it?
These aren’t your typical PSAs. You won’t see them on a poster, in a Facebook video, or the magazine in your doctor’s waiting room. Viacom has bigger plans. Instead, the media company is projecting astonishing and unbelievable (but unfortunately true) statistics, quotes and videos onto buildings in New York City.
To all the ladies out there—have you ever been old “you’re too sensitive” or “you’d look prettier if you smiled?” MTV’s PSA is working to raise awareness of these stereotypes by projecting them around Manhattan. For BET’s PSA, a video is shown with the following statistic: “Stereotype: More black men are in prison than in college. Reality: Fifty-nine percent more black men are in postsecondary education than in jail.” Spike kept it short, but incredibly eye-opening with the statistic, “Twenty-two veterans commit suicide every day.”
All PSAs were strategically placed in order to increase their impact and relevance, such as VH1’s stats, which were shown on the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Similarly, Spike’s video about veterans’ health can be seen on an armory in Washington Heights. All the feels, am I right?
Why’s it matter?
Viacom’s ultimate goal is to generate awareness and make an impact; thus, feedback is fundamental to this project. At the end of each PSA, viewers are encouraged to visit the Witness.Viacom.com website to explore each networks’ initiative and upload their own photos, videos or stories using #story4change.
People have become blinded to the abundance of clutter we see on the Internet and social media every day. Score one for Viacom for the taking the initiative to put real problems in perspective for people every day with this engaging campaign.