Joe Biden aims to capture young voters’ attention Sunday night with a new ad that will air during the MTV Video Music Awards — his biggest push to reach the key demographic.

The 60-second spot focuses on 21-year-old Duke University senior Adrianna Williams, the national co-chair of Black Students for Biden. The Tallahassee native is shown making a protest sign and talking about the relationship between her activism and support for Biden. 

“We have to continue the activism, we have to continue protesting, but we also have to go out and vote,” Williams says in the ad. “These protests are not just about police brutality. They’re about addressing systemic racism and economic disparities across our country. Electing Joe Biden is essential to addressing these issues and getting meaningful change.”

Campaign officials say the ad is part of an overall strategy to reach young voters using their peers as surrogates. During the Democratic National Convention, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, along with his wife, Ayesha, and their daughters, joined the lineup. Earlier this month, the campaign aired a viral conversation between Biden and rapper Cardi B. 

“There are very few must-see-TV events coming up before this election,” said Cameron Trimble, director of African American paid media for the Biden campaign. “This ad is meant to be culturally relevant to young voters and to speak directly to them with real stories from real people who look like them.”

Although the awards show’s viewership has declined, the lack of live programming could provide a boost. VMA viewership has hit record lows for the past three years in a row. But the 2020 VMAs will be the first major live award show since COVID-19 hit, and social media engagement surrounding the show has soared over previous years.

This year, nearly three-in-ten eligible voters are millennials, and one-in-ten are Gen Z voters between 18 years old and 23 years old, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Both groups are more diverse than older voters, about three-quarters of whom are white.
Younger voters tend to lean Democratic, but have also voted at lower rates historically. Recent polling has shown that young voters are interested and engaged in politics this cycle and largely support Biden, but that they are also unsure about how to participate in the election amid the pandemic.