Ah, the candy business, such a sweet, uncontroversial occupation. Almost everyone loves your product and you never get sucked into politics. Or so you would think. On Monday, M&Ms, the cute little “melt-in-mouth, not-hand” candy owned by Mars Wrigley, released one of those social media statements you usually see when a company really ticked the boxes. consumers.
“America, let’s talk about it,” the message begins. He goes on to note that the small, colorful candy mascots seen in the company’s advertisements — essentially, M&Ms with faces and limbs — have caused controversy on the internet.
Consequently, M&Ms has “decided to take an indefinite hiatus from spokespersons”, adding actress and comedian Maya Rudolph as a spokesperson instead. But is it for real? And what is the chocolate covered backstory? Here we are.
Who are the “spokespersons”?
M&Ms personified their candy years ago, giving each colored candy a different voice and personality in its advertisements. The yellow M&M, for example, is described as a sort of dim light bulb. It’s a peanut M&M, so it could be a play on “the peanut brain.” The green M&M is portrayed as the sexiest, apparently playing an old playground joke that green M&Ms are little aphrodisiacs. The others all have slightly different personalities and appearances, and they remain pretty much consistent from ad to ad.
The candy leaned hard on spokespersons in their advertising campaign. There’s even an advertisement in cinemas showing M&Ms as if they were characters in an action movie. It doubles as “disable your PSA cell phone”. Just as the candies are about to be sent into space attached to a rocket, a phone rings and they scold the audience for not turning off their phones.
Why are they controversial?
The commotion mainly surrounds green and brown candies, depicted in advertisements as women. It started with their shoes. (Yes, that’s still cartoon candy we’re talking about.) The green M&M was once drawn in white high-heeled boots and the brown M&M in stilettos. Then in 2022, the green boots were replaced with white sneakers, and the brown changed from high-heeled stilettos to a flatter, lower heel. (The male candies all seem to be wearing clunky white shoes or sneakers.)
In 2022, Fox News host Tucker Carlson poked fun at the changes to his show.
“M&M’s won’t be satisfied until all the cartoon characters are deeply attractive and utterly androgynous,” Carlson said. “Until the time you don’t want to have a drink with one of them. That’s the point. When you’re totally off, we’ve reached equity. They’ve won.”
Carlson decided to attack candy again in January 2023, also calling out the orange M&M for “becoming a poster boy for the mental health crisis” (the ever-jittery character is said to have anxiety). He described a Purple Peanut M&Msa more recent character, as being an “obese, typically frumpy lesbian M&M”.
The purple, brown and green M&Ms, the only colors represented by female spokespersons, come together in a limited-edition candy pack that the company touts as supporting women, with some of the proceeds going to organizations that “uplift and empower women”. A graphic shown on Fox called the all-female M&M pack, “woke candy.”
Is it for real or a publicity stunt?
So, did this reaction inspire M&Ms to retire their candy mascot and replace her with Maya Rudolph?
A representative for Mars Wrigley did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But let’s think about this. What’s just around the corner? The Feb. 12 Super Bowl, the scene of outrageous commercials and flashy corporate publicity stunts. (We follow all Super Bowl commercials as they are revealed.)
It seems quite likely that the cute little cartoon spokespeople aren’t going anywhere. Someone at Mars Wrigley is crafty enough to play the headlines their mascots have spawned.
Maya Rudolph will almost certainly appear in an M&Ms Super Bowl ad, but there’s no way she’s a permanent replacement for the animated little creatures. M&Ms are unlikely to throw out decades of cute, recognizable characters simply because of certain claims about their height, gender, and footwear.
According to TMZ, Rudolph confirmed that the commotion only led to his Super Bowl commercial. And an MSNBC columnist also agrees that it’s all just a publicity ploy.
Where have we seen this before?
It wouldn’t be the first time a Super Bowl ad has teased the removal of a company’s mascot. In 2020, a big game advertisement showed the Mr. Peanut’s funeral, the nut planters’ mascot, and the arrival of Baby Nut instead. (Baby Nut was aged into adulthood, just like the soap operas, in 2021.)
And in 2019, the Game of Thrones mountain killed Bud Light’s mascot, the Bud Light Knight, in a Super Bowl commercial. He also returned to the world of the living in a commercial that aired a few months later. So there’s a precedent for those ads that rip off a beloved mascot, then throw it back to ads later.
Tune in to the Super Bowl on February 12 to see what kind of ad M&Ms has cooked up with Maya Rudolph. It seems likely that the spokespersons will make some kind of humorous appearance and return to their mascot roles.
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