M&M’s Won the SuperBowl, Actually.

Image Credit: Syed F Hashemi on Unsplash

Let's hear it for the end of M&M's discourse, celebrates Ciarán Howley

This month’s Super Bowl had many welcome surprises. While I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually watched the game, the chatter about the Halftime Show and Rihanna’s incredible return to performing has been endless. Clad in Loewe and Alaia, Riri was a vision in red. But when she revealed that Baby Bump…. The Rihanna Navy put aside delusional hopes of new music and a tour and enjoyed the performance for what it was.

We also got a Clueless sequel, of sorts! Alicia Silverstone returned to her iconic breakout role of Cher Horowitz in a commercial for Rakuten, of all brands. I mean, get that coin girl. Adam Driver appeared in a Squarespace commercial which saw the House of Gucci star clone himself multiple times over, remaining true to the genre of SuperBowl ads feeling like deleted scenes from a Zack Snyder flick. 

But the weirdest one by far? M&M’s revealing that its newfound partnership with Saturday Night Live actor-comedian Maya Rudolph was an elaborate marketing ploy. This had been overtly obvious to everyone except me, according to my younger brother. Since January 2022, M&M’s have become embroiled in a “wokeness gone mad” debate about the rebranding of its “spokescandies.” 

In an effort to be more inclusive, the brand created a gender-neutral uniform for its spokescandies, namely the Green and Brown M&M. Green switched her signature go-go boots for white sneakers while Brown’s attire was switched to a more casual and sensible pair of heels. They also introduced a new female spokescandy to the group, a Purple and supposedly plus-sized M&M. The rebrand shook the hornet’s nest of Conservatives in the U.S. and a culture war over M&M’s was unleashed. 

Conservatives have an indefatigable habit for declaring “woke insanity” when at every opportunity they prove themselves Dutch Masters in the fine art of being easily offended.

“M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous'" cried Fox News presenter and professional victim Tucker Carlson. “Until the moment when you wouldn’t want to have a drink with any one of them. That’s the goal. When you’re totally turned off, we’ve achieved equity. They’ve won.”

It seems that Conservative pundits won’t rest until the Green M&M returns to full coquettish form in towering high heels and a pout to rival Euphoria’s Chloe Cherry. They have an indefatigable habit of declaring “woke insanity” when at every opportunity they prove themselves Dutch Masters in the fine art of being easily offended. But for a brief moment in time, they got their way. M&M’s parent company Mars announced that due to the backlash it would be retiring the spokescandies altogether, for the first time since their debut in 1954. Instead, Maya Rudolph was to become the face of M&M’s for a new campaign to be revealed on the eve of the SuperBowl, no less. 

To me this didn’t seem unfathomable. The backlash had continued a year on and plenty of food and drink brands have celebrity spokespeople. Brad Pitt for Pringles in the 90’s, Joan Collins for Snickers in the 10’s and more recently George Clooney for Nespresso. But as my brother informed me, “it was obvious the whole time.”

And the smoke cleared as soon as the commercial aired. The M&M’s rebrand was a farce, and a funny one at that. Rudolph announced the change to “Ma&Ya's” with a wide-eyed smize to rival Tyra Banks, with a new clam-infused recipe. M&M’s staged a Conservative-pleasing psyop, only to pull the rug out from under us. Well, me. Within hours, the spokescandies were reinstated to their rightful place, new uniforms intact and as glib as ever. 

So, what to make of it all? Namely, that if brands are aiming for inclusivity they need to stick to their guns. Even if no one really asked for it, take the backlash on the chin and maybe even have a bit of fun with it. 

Was it a marketing tour-de-force? By no means. Was it a pleasure to watch Tucker Carlson squirm by sexualising a sweet? No. 

It was a privilege.