Sabrina Sanchez
Jan 27, 2023

M&M’s spokes candy controversy is a Super Bowl stunt

Mars Wrigley confirms mascots aren’t going anywhere.

M&M’s spokes candy controversy is a Super Bowl stunt

False alarm: M&M’s “spokescandies” aren’t going anywhere. 

Jessica Adelman, VP of corporate affairs and comms and M&M parent Mars, confirmed with Campaign US on Thursday that a report this week that the candy band would retire its iconic spokes candies was part of a Super Bowl stunt that will be “resolved” during the Big Game. 

Last year, M&M’s kicked up controversy among conservatives when it rebranded its spokes candies and added a new Purple mascot to represent female comfort and inclusion. M&M’s also replaced the green M&M’s high-heeled footwear with sneakers, prompting Fox News host Tucker Carlson to go on a rampage in which he called the animated spokes candy “less sexy.” 

“You'll see a very clear line from the brand purpose refresh a year ago,” Adelman said. “This is all a very intentional campaign for the brand to be refreshed and to be relevant and making sure that we're connecting with today's consumer. Our Super Bowl campaign that's going on right now is exactly in line with that.” 

M&M’s triggered debate on Monday, when it announced on Twitter it would be “taking an indefinite pause” from its spokes candies after changes made to the beloved characters in the last yearled to criticism.

In a statement posted on Twitter on Jan. 23, M&M’s said it would instead put forth a spokesperson “America can agree on,” announcing Maya Rudolph would take over for the brand’s mascots as “chief of fun.” 

Since then, several teasers have alluded to the whereabouts of the spokes candies (and Rudolph’s orders of business) ahead of the Big Game. 

Clips posted on M&M’s social media channels depict Rudolph making changes to the brand, including adding a picture of her face to the candies’ outer shell and changing the name from M&M’s to Ma & Ya’s. 

Meanwhile, M&M’s are popping up in other places. According to a post on Snickers’ social media handle, Yellow is trying to get a job as a Snickers spokes candy, while Orange is launching a Spotify for users to meditate and relate with him on topics of mental health – a tie-in meant to target Gen Z. 

In a statement, M&M’s confirmed Rudolph will star in the Super Bowl spot this year using her “comedic talents and captivating personality to help M&M’s build on its mission to create a world where everyone feels they belong.” BBDO is leading creative for the spot. 

The campaign is all part of a stunt leading up to the game for consumers to get to know M&M’s new spokes candies better, Adelman explained. 

“They all have unique, interesting personalities and having them show up in interesting places where they're pursuing their outside interests helps the world to get to know them,” she said. “People adore them, but as a crew. They are really powerful individually, so it's fun to see what they might be interested in.” 

According to Adelman, other M&M’s characters will start to make appearances pursuing new endeavors. Blue will help to anchor ESPN, and there will be “more to look out for” with the other characters, particularly Purple, the first new character to be introduced in a decade.

M&M’s Monday announcement drummed up a lot of chatter on social, with brands and consumers alike sharing mixed feelings about the stunt. 

While some have expressed excitement about Rudolph’s appearance and even purchased the special edition “Ma & Ya’s” (currently listed on the M&M’s website), others have expressed confusion and distaste for the approach. 

Brands also chimed in with their thoughts. A&W Restaurants poked fun at the campaign and announcing in a similar fashion that it would change its mascot to make it less controversial.

As the news develops, marketers have expressed mixed feelings about leaning into controversy or shock advertising as a platform for a big campaign. 

In 2020, Planters had to pause it's Super Bowl campaign after it released an ad that alluded to the death of its mascot, Mr. Peanut. The campaign, launched about two weeks before the Super Bowl, coincided with the death of NBA star Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant in a helicopter crash. The controversy led Planters to change its approach with a new ad depicting the birth of a baby Mr. Peanut running as its Super Bowl spot. 


Campaign US

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