11.4 Know Your Audience; Know They Might Surprise You

Knowing your audience is critical to all entertainment, social media, and social marketing campaigns. It is important to involve members of the audience (e.g., young people) in the process of designing the messages and delivery mechanisms since they are the real experts when it comes to knowing how to engage their peers. Mike Rios, Creative Director at 17 Triggers, emphasized at the 2011 GYEOC that it’s critical to know how to position an idea in order to make it appealing and achieve the behavior change you’re seeking. Ways to do this include working with creative professionals who regularly do youth campaigns and by rapidly testing ideas with youth before you conduct a pilot or release a campaign. Rios believes that too often social marketing campaign ideas are decided in board rooms and never tested with target audiences to see if they are emotionally appealing. He says they don’t have to be long or expensive efforts either–most testing efforts by 17 Triggers have been planned and executed, with the report written in two weeks or less.

Elena Suarez, Chief of Development Communications and IDB Youth Program, Inter-American Development Bank, highlighted that certain delivery mechanisms will not always work with the particular youth population you’re targeting or the context in which you’re working. For example, she noted that only 36 percent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean access the Internet. Therefore, Facebook and Twitter will not be effective communications mechanisms to use in many parts of the region. It is important to test various communications tools as well; and use entertainment education, social media and social marketing to complement other learning modalities.

Messages need to draw on the preferences of your targeted group. As Box 11.4.1 shows, MTV learned the powerful response that media can generate from youth. MTV has done extensive research into the interests of young people, frequently called the Millennial Generation, and shapes programming around the interests, tendencies, and priorities of that generation. MTV also noted that every six months their audience’s interests, tendencies, and priorities change, and they have to keep on top of the changes.

11.4.1 Voices: MTV Learns the Power of Young Changemakers

Mario Cader-Frech, Vice President of Public Affairs and Corporate Social Responsibility at MTV Networks Latin America and U.S. Hispanic, described the network’s first experience with the Agents of Change program they co-developed with the Inter-American Development Bank’s Youth Development and Outreach Program in 2006. The network aired a spot asking Latin American and Caribbean youth to submit stories of how they promote positive change in their community.

Given that MTV’s celebrity contests typically receive between 300-800 responses, Cader-Frech expected about 100 stories. Instead, they received 7,000 responses from young people. The MTV team travelled all over the region filming oneminute clips of about 25 young people.1

For more information, see www.iadb.org/topics/ youth/idbyouth/index.cfm?artid=7137&lang=en.


  • 1. Also reference page 35 of Making Cents International’s 2010 State of the Field in Youth Enterprise, Employment and Livelihoods Development publication.