LOS ANGELES MTV's Video Music Awards, with their history of on-air antics and general bawdiness, are the stuff of tabloid and blog fodder, not to mention chatter around the office the next day. Seizing on that association with buzz and youth culture was General Motors' Chevrolet, which piggybacked on the televised show to launch its new Cruze vehicle. The brand filmed a N.E.R.D. and Ciara concert as part of a live event at the Studios at Paramount the night before the awards to air in commercial form during the show. This was Chevy's first year as an official sponsor of the show since 2007, after buying a few spots in 2008 and taking 2009 off as its cash-strapped parent company reassembled its media strategy.
The concert drew about 350 guests chosen from the artists' and Chevy's fan clubs. Guests danced among classic and new Chevy cars set up in a drive-in-style setting, with the cars facing the stage. A screen showing cartoonish graphics on top of footage of highway and desert scenery backed the performances, which included a version of N.E.R.D.’s “Hot-n-Fun.”
Working with MTV senior vice president of integrated marketing Angela Courtin, Precision Event Group produced the event, which MTV presented to Chevy as a live event before the TV production component was added. “We were planning the drive-in [with MTV, which] brought the report back to Chevy,” said Precision's Jason Wanderer. “They liked it so much, they decided to turn it into a commercial.” Wanderer said the budget did not grow as a result, but was retooled.
What the TV audience didn't see was a hospitality area where guests stopped by for hairstyling appropriate to the retro-meets-modern look conjured with the drive-in production concept. “It was fun for them, as well as camera-friendly,” Wanderer said. Guests also snacked on barbecue-style catering from Pie 'n Burger.
“Attendees [from the fan clubs] were thrilled that they were able to experience something they're really interested in, which also becomes really crucial because we're asking a little bit more of them as participants. The biggest thing is the energy around the performance, and [we found] people who were truly into it,” said Wanderer. “The plans continued to grow legs. [In the end,] in terms of bang for the buck, we took the consumer experience targeted toward a smaller live group and made it a nationwide experience.”