Advertisers are never thirstier for eyeballs than during the Super Bowl, but Planters sank to new depths with its ill-advised ad campaign “killing” the brand’s cartoon mascot, Mr. Peanut.
To the company’s, er, credit, the gruesome commercial got a lot of people talking about nuts. Dozens of other brands pretended to grieve Mr. Peanut on social media, while thousands of incensed and befuddled people wondered: why?
When tragedy struck, barely a week before the big game, and Kobe Bryant, his young daughter, and seven other people were killed in a helicopter accident in California, the insanity and the insensitivity of Planters’ brand stunt was magnified.
Planters paused promoting Mr. Peanut’s funeral after Bryant’s death. But the notion that it took a tragic, untimely celebrity death for the brand to acknowledge its campaign was, uh, insensitive is mind-boggling. Then the night of the Super Bowl, Planters aired the original “Mr. Peanut’s death” commercial before kickoff and a new “Mr. Peanut’s funeral” spot during the game’s third quarter. In it, the 104-year-old mascot’s grave magically sprouts a new vine, Jack and the Beanstalk-like, producing a tiny, infant legume. Say hello to Baby Peanut. With its big, googley eyes on a rotund shell of a body, the lil nut looks suspiciously like Baby Yoda.
Mike Pierantozzi, the ad exec at Planters’ agency VaynerMedia who came up with this whole shenanigan, said the agency was trying to insert peanuts into the cultural discourse in a way that’d explode.
“We started talking about how the internet treats when someone dies — specifically, we were thinking about fictional characters, [like when] Iron Man died,” Pierantozzi told CNBC, referring to the [spoiler alert] Marvel character’s demise in Avengers: Endgame.
“When Iron Man died, we saw an incredible reaction on Twitter and on social media. It’s such a strange phenomenon,” he added.
The harebrained campaign idea surfaced last summer. Pierantozzi and his team wondered, “What would happen and how would the world react if [Mr. Peanut] passed away?”
“We did the unthinkable: we created [...] an idea where Mr. Peanut dies, and dies specifically sacrificing himself for his friends, which has always been a tenet of who he is and what he does — he always puts others first,” Pierantozzi noted. Excuse me, what? The Planters brand guide must be… macadamia levels of nuts.
The thing is, it’s all so dumb! Planters is shamelessly shilling Baby Peanut merch, probably inspired by the fervor unleashed by the demand for Baby Yoda dolls in the fall. But nobody wants Baby Peanut (sorry). The whole stunt reeks of brands trying too hard, which is a surefire way to turn people off. Quite frankly, go home lil nut.