Opinion: M&M’S Super Bowl ad is one to watch | CNN (2024)

Editor’s Note: Kara Alaimo, an associate professor of communication at Fairleigh Dickinson University, writes about issues affecting women and social media. Her book “Over the Influence: Why Social Media Is Toxic for Women and Girls — And How We Can Reclaim It” will be published by Alcove Press in 2024. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own. Read more opinion on CNN.


The Super Bowl comes at a time of major social and political turmoil. But you won’t get much sense of that from the ads and teasers that have been previewed so far. Staying out of the fray may allow brands to avoid controversy, but they’ll miss an opportunity to make memorable marks on our culture.

Last year’s Super Bowl has been described as a “coming out party” for cryptocurrency, with celebrities like Larry David pitching it. Since then, crypto values have plummeted. So far this year, brands seem to not be sticking their necks out. In a Doritos ad, paparazzi bombard rapper Jack Harlow with questions about a love triangle. Budweiser’s spot is based on the theory that we’re all connected by six degrees of separation. Serena Williams takes up golf in an ad for Michelob Ultra.

The ads feel like an alternate universe to the country where the big game is being played. The death of Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, at the hands of Memphis police last month has shaken the nation. (Officers have been charged with murder.) So far this year, more than 150 bills have been proposed to restrict the rights of transgender people. And we’re headed into the 2024 presidential election with a major candidate — former president Donald Trump — who helped incite a deadly attack on the country’s capitol after the last election and still baselessly claims the 2020 election was stolen from him.

No wonder advertisers think we need some comic relief. But this isn’t likely to be a winning strategy for them. That’s because the kinds of brands that become iconic “address the collective anxieties and desires of a nation,” marketing expert Douglas Holt writes in “How Brands Become Icons.”

What has our country so divided right now is questions about diversity and inclusion. In his book “Why We’re Polarized,” political commentator Ezra Klein says the “core cleavage of our politics” is between people who embrace our country’s increasing diversity and people who reject it. But embracing it is just common sense from a business perspective: By around 2045, the majority of the US population won’t be White, Klein points out. Younger generations also identify as LGBTQ more than older Americans do. Brands should be getting out ahead of these trends with bold messages that help shape our culture.

Pamela Anderson in "Pamela, a Love Story" Netflix Opinion: This world-famous sex symbol deserves to be taken seriously

One ad that may buck the trend of brands playing it safe this Super Bowl is M&M’S. The company recently claimed to be putting its spokescandies on “pause” after they got caught up in the culture wars. After the green started wearing sneakers instead of heeled boots last year, the company received a wave of criticism.

Fox News host Tucker Carlson proclaimed “M&M’s will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous.” And after the company released packages of M&Ms in colors associated with women, outrage ensued on social media and right-wing news networks — a graphic used on a Fox show referred to the candy as “woke.”

The brand would be smart to stay woke. The actress Maya Rudolph will appear in a commercial during the game. Hopefully the ad sends a message about the value of diversity and inclusiveness.

Of course, it’s not that simple. Companies need to first walk the walk — by aligning their business practices and overall identity with an issue — before they can start running ads about it. That might mean taking public stances on issues — whether it’s speaking out against bills that would take rights away from transgender people or laws restricting voting rights that disproportionately affect people of color. Companies should also consider donating money to non-profit organizations that work on these issues.

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    Ads with political or social messages can easily backfire if they’re not viewed as authentic. Remember Pepsi’s widely condemned ad featuring Kendall Jenner and street protests back in 2017? The main reason it backfired was because Pepsi was seen as trying to capitalize on social problems rather than helping to resolve them.

    Americans are only becoming more diverse and accepting of different gender and sexual identities. Advertisers that don’t register these changes may avoid backlash, but they won’t have the cultural impact that keeps us talking about them, either.

    Opinion: M&M’S Super Bowl ad is one to watch | CNN (2024)


    What is the point of the M&M commercial? ›

    "My favorite thing about Mars' M&M'S Super Bowl campaign is the encouragement to have fun and a sense of humor, whether you're a winner or not," said Scarlett Johansson of her appearance in the spot. "It's playful and comforting at the same time, just like one of my all-time favorite Mars candies, Peanut Butter M&M'S.

    Why are Super Bowl ads effective? ›

    Super Bowl commercials provide a unique and colossal opportunity to capture the attention of tens of millions of people who are not only exposed to the commercials but also look forward to them. Ultimately, the most successful are those who entertain and effectively communicate their brand's message and values.

    What is the purpose of the Super Bowl ad meter? ›

    (NYSE: GCI), officially launched the 36th annual Ad Meter competition, the industry's leading opinion tool for gauging public sentiment around Super Bowl commercials.

    How many M&M commercials are in the Super Bowl? ›

    The ad, Mars-Wrigley-owned M&M's ninth Super Bowl appearance, will appear in the first commercial break in the first quarter. While M&Ms spokescandies will be in the ad to provide commentary, they're not the focus as they had been last year.

    What did M&M originally stand for? ›

    The M&M name actually represents the two people who came up with the idea. M&M stands for Mars and Murrie - named after Forrest E. Mars Sr. – the founder of Mars – and Bruce Murrie, the son of Hershey Chocolate's president William F. R. Murrie.

    What is M&M's message? ›

    Our idea won out and 3 years later M&M's Messages was born — a series of 34 unique designs and phrases printed on-pack as a way for people to connect, communicate, and celebrate life's everyday moments.

    What is the #1 Super Bowl food? ›

    1 In 7 Americans Order Take Out

    "But what are people ordering for their Super Bowl watch parties?" is a question you may ask yourself because you're looking to create a game day menu. The three most popular Super Bowl dishes people order are pizza, chicken wings, and chips with dips.

    What is the best Super Bowl ads? ›

    The 32 best Super Bowl commercials of all time (including 2024)
    • E Trade – Baby (2010)
    • Old Spice – The Man Your Man Could Smell Like (2010)
    • Sorta Pharmacy – Esurance (2015)
    • Charmin – Snap (2004)
    • Family Guy – Super Bowl Promos (1999)
    • How to get faster feedback on your Super Bowl ads.
    • Final thoughts.
    Feb 28, 2024

    What are the pros and cons of advertising during the Super Bowl? ›

    These advertisem*nts provide an excellent opportunity for brands to increase brand awareness, earn new customers, and increase sales. However, there are several drawbacks to buying a Super Bowl ad, including decreased brand reputation, decreased value, and decreased consideration.

    What was the best commercial at Super Bowl 2024? ›

    Over 160,000 people registered to vote in the 36th USA TODAY Ad Meter competition, which ranks the Super Bowl commercials each year. The 2024 winner was State Farm's "Like a Good Neighbaaa," starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito, with a score of 6.68.

    Who owns M&M's? ›

    Introduction. One of the largest privately owned companies in the country, Mars is responsible for many of the candy, gum, and pet food brands you see at the grocery store, like Wrigley's, M&Ms, Twix, and Pedigree.

    Who got the M&M ring? ›

    A unique promotion for this year's Super Bowl LVIII has been crafted by M&M's, as it creates a peanut butter enhanced 'almost champions' diamond ring for three NFL Hall of Fame legends, in the form of Dan Marino, Terrell Owens and Bruce Smith, reports Neill Barston.

    What is the M&M Super Bowl ring? ›

    The orange M&M character wears a gold ring with diamonds made in a lab from M&M's peanut butter. Playing on highly complex championship rings, the “Almost Champions Ring of Comfort” opens up to show a stadium big enough to hold one of the candies in place.

    What is the deal with the M&M characters? ›

    M&M's says it is abandoning its colorful candy mascots because they are too “polarizing” for Americans to handle these days. The ubiquitous chocolate characters—which have been the face of M&M's for years—didn't say anything controversial.

    Why is Maya Rudolph on M&M commercial? ›

    In response, the M&M's brand pretended to retire its iconic spokescandies for publicity and announced that they would be replaced by Maya Rudolph, whom everyone can agree on.

    Why did they take away the M&M characters? ›

    On Jan. 24, Mars, Incorporated — the company that owns the M&M's brand — told the world that their iconic mascots would be replaced by comedian Maya Rudolph. The company said it was due to criticism of the brand getting “too political,” thanks to their controversial makeovers of the mascots last year.

    Why is M&M rebranding? ›

    A Bold Decision

    M&Ms recently chose to rebrand its iconic M&M characters to better reflect consumers. In an effort to de-sexualize her, the company swapped the Green M&M's feminine boots with sneakers.


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