Ah, the candy business, such a sweet and non-controversial occupation. Almost everyone loves their product and never gets drawn into politics. Or so you would think. On Monday, M&Ms, the cute little “melt-in-your-mouth-not-your-hand” candy owned by Mars Wrigley, issued one of those social media statements you usually see when a company has really screwed up consumers. .
“America, let’s talk,” the message begins. He goes on to point out that the colorful little candy mascots seen in the company’s ads—essentially M&Ms with faces and limbs—have caused controversy on the internet.
Therefore, M&Ms has “decided to take an indefinite hiatus from sweet spokespeople,” instead adding actress and comedian Maya Rudolph as their spokesperson. But is this real? And what’s the chocolate-coated backstory? Here we go.
What are spokescandies?
M&Ms personified their candy years ago, giving each colored candy a different voice and personality in their ads. The yellow M&M, for example, comes across as sort of a dim bulb. It’s a peanut M&M, so it could be a “peanut brain” game. Green M&Ms comes off as the sexy one, apparently playing on an old playground joke about green M&Ms being little aphrodisiacs. Everyone else has slightly different personalities and appearances, and pretty much stays constant from ad to ad.
The candy has relied heavily on spokespersons as part of its advertising campaign. There’s even an ad in theaters that shows M&Ms looking like characters from an action movie. It does double duty as “turn off the PSA on your cell phone.” Just as the candy is about to be sent into space tethered to a rocket, a phone rings and the audience is scolded for not turning off their phones.
Why are they controversial?
The uproar mainly surrounds green and brown candies, depicted in ads as female. It started with his footwear. (Yes, we’re still talking about cartoon candy.) The green M&M used to be drawn with high-heeled white boots and the brown M&M with stilettos. Then, in 2022, Green’s boots were replaced with white sneakers, and brown moved from super-high stilettos to a lower, flatter heel. (Seems like all the male sweeties wear riding shoes or crude white sneakers.)
In 2022, Fox News host Tucker Carlson mocked the changes to his show.
“M&M’s won’t be satisfied until the latest cartoon character is profoundly unsexy and utterly androgynous,” Carlson said. “Until the point where you don’t want to have a drink with any of them. That’s the goal. When you’re totally off, we’ve achieved equality. They’ve won.”
Carlson decided to attack candy again in January 2023, also calling out orange M&Ms for “becoming the poster boy for the mental health crisis” (the always-jittery character was said to have anxiety). He described aa newer character, as a “distinctively scruffy, obese lesbian M&M”.
The purple, brown and green M&Ms, the only colors represented by female spokespersons, are offered together in a limited-edition candy package that the company touts as supporting women, with a portion of the proceeds going to organizations that “encourage and empower women. A graphic shown on Fox called the all-female M&M package, “woke up candy.”
Is this real or is it a publicity stunt?
So did this reaction inspire M&Ms to retire their candy mascot and replace them 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 around the corner? The Super Bowl on February 12, home to outrageous commercials and flashy corporate publicity stunts. (We are tracking allas they are revealed.)
It seems pretty likely that the cute little cartoon candies aren’t going anywhere. Someone at Mars Wrigley is astute enough to play with the headlines his mascots have spawned.
Maya Rudolph will almost certainly appear in a Super Bowl ad for M&Ms, but there’s no way she’s going to replace the little animated creatures forever. M&Ms are unlikely to throw out decades of cute, recognizable characters just for a few statements about their size, gender, and footwear.
According to TMZ, Rudolph has confirmed that the hoopla only leads to his Super Bowl ad. And an MSNBC columnist also agrees that this is all just a publicity ploy.
Where have we seen this before?
It wouldn’t be the first time a Super Bowl ad mocked the removal of a company’s mascot. In 2020, a commercial for a big game showed the, the mascot of Planters nuts, and the arrival of Baby Nut in his place. (Baby Nut came of age, just like the soap operas, in 2021.)
And in 2019, the mountain from Game of Thrones killed Bud Light’s mascot, Bud Light Knight, in a Super Bowl commercial. He, too, returned to the world of the living in an ad that was shown just a few months later. So there’s precedent for these ads taking away a beloved pet, then putting it back in ads later on.
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 spokesmen will make some sort of humorous appearance and get their mascot roles back.