An apparently noncandy spokesperson for M&M’s released a statement Monday that the candy is taking an “indefinite pause” from using the walking, talking versions of its confections in ads, obliquely referring to the “polarizing” reaction that last year’s “mascot refresh” sparked on the right. And in the iconic words of “Mad” Max Rockatansky in the 2015 cinema masterpiece “Fury Road”: “That’s bait.”
For background, the statement released Monday — which introduces Maya Rudolph as a replacement and calls her “a spokesperson American can agree on”— is in supposed response to chum-churning from conservative outlets over the supposed “woke” ideology that the candy’s parent company, Mars Inc., is espousing. Last year, Fox News host Tucker Carlson went on a tirade after the Green M&M’s high heels were replaced with sneakers.
“M&Ms will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous,” Carlson said at the time. “When you are totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity.” NBC News reported Monday that, more recently, there’s been backlash to a campaign from M&Ms that “raised money to support women in creative industries and featured limited-edition candy bags with the three female spokescandies."
While I can’t say that I pictured myself writing about anthropomorphic chocolate when I woke up this morning, I can say that this announcement is a scam, a ruse crafted in a marketing brainstorm as what’s a pretty obvious lead-up to a Super Bowl ad. Remember two years ago when Planters “killed” Mr. Peanut only to revive him during a Super Bowl commercial? I imagine that a similar M&M ad will feature Rudolph, likely in an M&M costume, deadpanning her frustrations to an off-camera director or some similar bit. TMZ reported that Rudolph has acknowledged it’s all about a Super Bowl ad, just hours after the original tweet was posted.
On the one hand, you have to ask why a Super Bowl ad campaign is even necessary. Does anyone see a pack of M&Ms in a store and think, “I wonder if these are any good.” The candy’s name recognition extends to everybody who knows at least half their ABCs.
The statement retiring the candy mascots says the intent is to “create a world where everyone feels they belong,” which is absolutely not a world that comes about by treating the ramblings of Carlson and his ilk as deserving of response. While we could be seeing a straight-faced setup for Rudolph’s satirical gifts, I’m doubtful Mars Inc. would sign off on the biting political commentary that lampooning the right’s love for made-up culture wars would require.
What we’re more likely to get is a corporate inversion of Carlson’s entire shtick: a focus on the trials and tribulations of “spokescandies” in a world that is sadly obsessed with “woke-ism” before they’re thankfully returned to service promoting their and their brethren’s consumption. And from where I’m sitting, the payoff will, at most, be a half-hearted ribbing of conservatives that will do nothing to disturb the underlying status quo or actively combat the conspiratorial anti-feminist framing from the Carlsons of the world — but I guess might sell more candy?
That’s all Mars Inc. is after here. They see what Carlson has done for himself and want the same, ideally in a way that works out as a net positive at the end of Q12023. This campaign is an empty candy-coated shell, with nothing real in the center except a driving need for attention and profit.