During the last "Beavis and Butt-Head" episode, the two misfits consider that someone may actually occupy a lower rung on the intellectual ladder than they do. While watching a clip from MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” Butt-Head finds a character that prompts him to say: “This guy looks like he might be stupider than us.”
Beavis and Butt-Head have been gone for nearly 14 years, but they have not spent their time pursuing Rhodes Scholarships. They’re still the moronic, sociopathic characters they were during their show's four-year run in the mid-1990s.
Now, they’ve returned to MTV for 12 episodes of “Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head,” where the show creator’s name is now in the title.
With their distinctive laughs young males love to imitate, Beavis and Butt-Head were known for sitting on the couch and offering biting commentary about music videos. Now, their derision includes MTV shows such as “16 and Pregnant” and “Jersey Shore.”
“If Beavis and Butt-Head can’t come on the air and just take the piss out of MTV, who can?” said Tina Exarhos, executive vice president in the marketing group at MTV.
When the new version of the show premiered Oct. 27, that marked the culmination of months of work by Exarhos and her MTV colleagues in drumming up interest in the series. The multi-layered marketing plan included about every avenue out there, but none more prominent and useful than MTV’s own programming.
During early research, the team found it had wind at its back since -- maybe surprisingly -- awareness of the show was remarkably high among the younger portion of MTV’s core 12-to-34 audience.
Still, they needed a key insight to drive tune-in and they found it in Beavis and Butt-Head’s penchant for brazenly causing trouble. B&B caused disruption without even trying.
So, disruption became the campaign's underlying premise, which is really what marketing is all about anyway. At its core, the campaign would feature B&B popping up mischievously at odd times to surprise an MTV audience.
The characters were "kind of tailor made to wreak havoc on our air,” Exharos said.
Since MTV runs multiple repeats of shows, it had Beavis and Butt-Head randomly emerging on-screen for brief moments during re-runs. In “Death Valley,” Butt-Head showed up silently shaking as if an electric shock had blitzed through him. In “Ridiculousness,” Beavis came across the screen throwing something. In the “Real World,” the pair showed up together in sunglasses downing candy.
In a repeat of “Jersey Shore,” MTV had B&B hijack one of Snooki's phone conversations. As if they were on the other end of the line, they warned her about Vinny's potent flatulence.
“He ate some bad pizza and he’s doing this on purpose … he’s just an animal,” says Beavis. Butt-Head asks if she understands the danger she is in.
Also, during a "Jersey Shore" promo, one of the Bs reached up and replaced the “S” in "Shore" with a “W.”
In a spot for “Ridiculousness,” Butt-Head stuck his finger through the MTV logo. Meanwhile, the two-headed dog that serves as the MTV2 logo was altered to include the B&B heads.
MTV's head marketer Exarhos said that with the show coming back after so many years, the interaction with current MTV content helped contemporize the characters. In a sense, this was Exarhos' second time launching the show, having been part of the media relations group during the first go-round.
The MTV team launched this year's campaign at the Comic-Con convention over the summer, where Mike Judge was on a panel with friend Johnny Knoxville. Comic-Con attendees are a fickle, demanding sort and want something unique and MTV obliged with footage from the new show unveiled for the first time.
Then, almost right after, clips were put up on MTV.com.
In late August, the Beavis and Butt-Head characters made multiple appearances during the hugely rated “Video Music Awards” broadcast on MTV, including in-show with pop superstar Nicki Minaj.
In other gambits, B&B took over the MTV.com home page. Outside the MTV sphere, BuzzFeed.com became ButtFeed.com. And at sports events, B&B showed up on the fan cams that normally might be zooming in on a kissing couple.
It’s not often network marketers have the opportunity to promote a show about ludicrous deviants using assets as valuable and malleable as the MTV brand and “Jersey Shore” characters. “It was like Halloween every day here,” Exharos said of her team's work. “People were so excited to work on this.”