Jaldi 5 with Aditya Swamy: Making voting cool with Rock the Vote campaign

10 Dec,2013

If Sunday’s Assembly elections results have already rocked the nation with the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party as a potent force, youth channel MTV has unveiled a campaign asking young voters to register with the Election Commission and vote on Polling Day. MTV has partnered with 21-year-old non-profit organisation Rock The Vote for the initiative. Speaking to MxMIndia, Aditya Swamy, EVP and Business Head, MTV India spoke on the ‘Hero Rock the Vote’ campaign and how he hopes to drive home the point that it’s ‘cool’ to vote and sport the indelible ink marker


01. And we thought at least on MTV, we could have things beyond elections. Politics and voting sure is in the air for you guys too?!

Clearly, voting is the flavor of the season. Everyone is doing a voting campaign, especially the news guys. And they are talking to the electorate as a whole. But some interesting facts were thrown up from the Election Commission saying that 12 crore first-time voters this time. And that’s more than the number of votes the leading party got last time. And if they are all young people, then why not have a call to action that is only talking to young people in their language.


So when we scoped out the environment we figured that internationally MTV works with the US-based organization Rock the Vote. Their sole objective is to make it a fun election campaign. It’s not calling it a youth parliament, it’s not calling people to debate on the Top 5 issues of the country and looking for ways to change them.


It deals with issues that touch the youth everyday in their lives. It’s simple things like ice-cream has become expensive so you and your girlfriend can’t have two ice-creams, you have to share one. Your bike…you don’t go for a joy rides anymore, you go from Point A to Point B…because petrol has become expensive. It’s about talking about issues that are relevant to young people and talking in their voice with their ambassadors.


The biggest platform for Rock the Vote is using music and humour. All communication is very tongue-in-cheek. One of our ambassadors we have selected is YoYou Honey Singh, the music star. He’ll reach out to the youth through music videos and music anthem. The effort is to talk the youth in their voice, with things that interest them, and not make it preachy.


We are not saying log onto the MTV and register. We are not saying become a fan on MTV Facebook page. We don’t have to build our audience through this. All we are saying is: ‘Go Press the Button’. It is – ‘Dabao na Button’ …that’s the tag line for the whole campaign. As we build the campaign we’ll say… Log on to electioncommission.com. A lot of people think we are doing this to build our brand, to increase our Facebook fans, to add Youtube views, to boost viewership to the channel. But that’s not it. We don’t believe it doing it just on TV. We start with the first leg on TV. And then we have 200 college campuses that have tied in with an MTV programme currently where we have campus ambassadors. So we will actually go down to campuses and engage with them. And the fun part is, at the end of it, we hold a mega concert for which there are going to be no tickets. All you need is the voting ink on your finger. And that’s how you get entry.


When is the concert?

After the elections, a couple of days after the elections. We have worked this campaign out in multiple phases. It has a bunch of promos on air, there are several kind of creatives, we’ll have a lot of user generated videos, we have nice set of animation videos made by some young kids, we have college contact programme, we have the music video and the song, we have a mega concert.


02. Do you think this campaign will be able to address the real issues as to why people don’t go out to vote?

Of course yes! Like I was in Delhi last week and I was able to drive from Gurgaon to the airport in less than half an hour. When I asked the cab driver why the roads were empty, he said it was because of elections. Voting is essentially considered a holiday, so most people take off on short breaks. I think as it becomes more and more cool to vote… that’s the change we want to bring about. We want to make voting a cool thing to do. So an Arnab Goswami asking the youth to vote versus Honey Singh urging them will be different. So that’s what we are trying to tap.


Our second ambassador is Rannvijay, the most followed celebrity on Indian television. Now on the Roadies audition (which will be aired in January), the first questions being asked of participants is – ‘Do you Vote?’. So we have woven it into our content as well. The idea is to make voting cool. Why do you think we are calling it – Rock the Vote…because its with music..it’s with concert… it’s with cool stuff.


03. Are you also looking at reaching smaller towns?

Yes. These 100 colleges are spread over 25 cities. The idea is spread to the interiors. I’ll take him Honey to Jabalpur, to Kanpur.



Essentially the HSM markets?

If I take him to Kerala or Karnataka, the language becomes an issue. Rannvijay connects with a crowd that speaks in Punjabi. If I take him to Chennai, and he speaks in Hindi, he’ll will be a loser there.


So you are not looking at South?

If we find some interesting people, who want to be a part of the campaign, we would love to go South. If there is a cricket icon like Rahul Dravid who wants to talk to masses in Kannada, I would love to do it in Karnataka as well. But right now, we are largely at the Hindi belt.


How else are you promoting your campaign, besides television?

We are looking at Twitter in a large way. Twitter has come in as a strategic partner. We don’t have a press partner. I don’t think young people read newspapers that much. I would rather have Twitter as a partner. And Twitter is a partner with MTV Rock the Vote in US as well. So through Twitter, we hope to engage the urban youth.


04. Don’t you think it will be good to have the youth as consumers of news so that they understand the real issues?

Before, young people just wanted to fight the system, fight their parents, be very cynical. Now the attitude is: I will go get drunk, I will go party, I’ll go for a concert, I’ll have a girlfriend, but I’ll also go plant trees, I’ll also use eco-friendly bags and I’ll vote. There is a thing if I am not being responsible about the world around me, I’m not been cool anymore. Some of the lines we have used is : “I can’t picture myself sleeping with a non-voter.” “If you don’t do politics, politics will do you.” “Waiting in line to vote is a welcome respite from waiting in line for gas”.


We’ve had campaigns like these in the past like Jaago Re of Tata Tea. As a campaign it was feel good. What is it that you’ll think will actually get people to get down to come and vote and not take Voting Day as just another holiday?

If voting becomes a fashion, having a tick, the colour on your hand has to be a cool thing. Looking the number of people who posted their picture on Facebook – “I voted, have you?” It has to become the coolest tattoo in town is the ink on your finger. Every young person today, boy or girl, wants to have a tattoo. Tattoo means rebel, no tattoo means mainstream. We had an office party on Wednesday. Thursday was voting day in Delhi. Lot of people flew back to Delhi just to vote. And some of them couldn’t. And you should have seen the thing on Facebook, Shit man, I missed the voting. Ink your pink…that was one of the things. If you have not inked you are not cool. We are talking about things that young people are.


05. Are you going to sync this with Roadies?

Right from Barney wearing Rock the Vote T-shirt. For us, Roadies has been a great huge place to partnership. One, that’s the audience we are talking to. Two, it is a great partnership with a hero who is in Roadies, and thirdly, we are using Rannvijay as a very powerful face of the entire campaign, and he is the face of Roadies as well.


And you’ve got Hero which is a Roadies sponsor to back Rock the Vote too?

We’ve got Hero as our partner. We’ve also got Karbon Mobile. Hero has been associated with us for long time. It is interesting to have Indian brand talking Rock the Vote. They genuinely want to involve the youth to make a better India. Otherwise why would it go and sponsor hockey, when everybody is supporting cricket. Hockey is India’s national sports. Also, Hero’s huge network with their dealership huge is a good way to take the campaign to the masses.


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