Another day, another M&M controversy. Where to start with this one? Well, the headlines are that Mars Wrigley has released his much-anticipated M&M’s ad at the Super Bowl. This ad was intended to clear up the confusion after M&M’s changed its name to Ma&Ya’s, a take on new voice actress Maya Rudolph’s name, as well as reintroduce the “Spokescandies” and bring the characters back to the heart of the brand.
But the ads (see below) are more than a little weird. It features comical Maya Rudolph promoting new Ma&Ya’s that appear to be candy-coated clam bites. There are people who try the clam candies and look disgusted (not surprisingly), there are other people who appear to be dressed up as Spokescandies, except for some reason they’re wearing white pants and vests over their colored outfits. And if you look closely you can spot the yellow M&M in the background, as well as the red M&M holding up a “Help” sign.
Overall, the whole thing looks like it grew out of a slightly deranged creative meeting where the team had seen too much Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory and maybe been on a sugar rush from too many M&Ms or recovering from food poisoning after the Eating clam candy equivalents.
For those viewers who had been following this M&M’s / Ma&Ya’s branding campaign, this Super Bowl ad might have made a little sense. I’ve been tracking it and I can say it does, but I still have many, many questions.
To anyone who hasn’t kept up with the chocolates, this ad must seem even more bizarre. Here’s a quick synopsis for the uninitiated: The original green M&M controversy arose when the public got upset that the M&M “Spokescandies” were getting a “woke makeover.” People seemed particularly annoyed that the green M&M was made less “sexy” as she swapped out her heeled boots for trainers. The awakened characters were then satirized by American TV host Tucker Carlson, causing even more furore, and finally Mars Wrigely announced that earlier this year it had dropped the Spokescandies for Maya Rudolph and renamed it Ma&Ya’s.
Back to commercials, which get weirder and weirder the longer you watch them. Shortly after the spot, Ma&Ya’s changed its name back to M&M’s and released a “press conference” from the cast announcing their return (see below). Note that the green M&M had no lines here and the video itself is pretty boring. I think it should be funny when the purple M&M’s lament their lack of job options, but overall it’s a pretty boring end to a fun brand ride.
So where do we stand after this huge marketing gimmick? On the M&M website (opens in new tab)there is a bit more about the campaign:
“Over the past year, the discussion surrounding our legendary Spokescandies has reached new heights, but got a bit ‘lively’ at times.
“We wanted to positively redirect the passion of this conversation to bring the fun back in and help people laugh and move on together with our latest Super Bowl campaign. Now we can continue with what we are here for: a world where everyone feels like they belong.”
The site then talks about campaigns supporting M&M’s, which is fine and dandy. But we’re not sure anyone really noticed that part of the campaign, and from a branding perspective, it feels like M&M’s had a good idea but then didn’t execute it properly. A bigger statement would have been to double the “awakening” or go back the other way, although that would inevitably create more culture wars.
Have we all talked about M&M’s? Secure. Am I still convinced that it is a brand genius? Unfortunately, the last hurdle fell because I didn’t say much at all about what was supposed to be the climax of the campaign.