Last week, Planters announced on Twitter that it would be killing off Mr. Peanut in a Super Bowl commercial. The ad, which for some reason showcases its monocled cartoon mascot plunging off a cliff to save actors Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh, was set to air along with an additional clip in the third quarter that would “broadcast Mr. Peanut’s funeral, so the world can mourn the loss of the beloved legume together.”
If that sounds dumb, it absolutely is. But as AdAge reports, the tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna, and seven others in a helicopter crash Sunday has caused the nut company to pause its expensive ad campaign. No, really. AdAge writes, “As of Monday, it remained unclear how the brand would proceed with its marketing strategy leading up to and during the Super Bowl.”
Alright, to whom? Who read about Bryant’s death and immediately thought, “I wonder what’s going to happen with that peanut commercial now.” While it seems deeply unlikely that anyone besides Planters’ marketing team or the biggest nerds alive took the devastating news and thought deeply about the implications of what killing a fictional “spokesnut” in a 30-second TV spot would mean in light of these events, the nut company still proceeded with a statement.
“We wanted you to know that we are saddened by this weekend’s news and Planters has paused all campaign activities, including paid media, and will evaluate next steps through a lens of sensitivity to those impacted by this tragedy,” a spokesman said in a press release.
On the surface, any brand taking steps to use a “lens of sensitivity” sounds like a good thing, but... we’re talking about a cartoon here. It’s such a leap to conflate the real-life loss of one of the biggest sports stars of all time with Planters murdering its fictional spokesperson in attempts to get people to eat more of their peanuts. While almost no one would think Planters is being intentionally offensive to Bryant and the other victims’ families for airing the ad (unless Mr. Peanut was somehow involved in the accident), it now almost feels like the brand is insulting our collective intelligence.
Look, it might be that Planters realized it was spending millions of dollars to kill its mascot for no real reason except to go viral and sell some peanuts, and that realization was simply too much. On the other hand, this might just be a cynical PR move to capitalize on a tragic accident.
If anything, Planters’ can eat whatever they paid VaynerMedia to air a silly Super Bowl ad if they can get free press (like this article) for "doing the right thing" and suspending the marketing campaign. While you might be grappling with the loss of an iconic Los Angeles Laker, Planters respectfully and not at all offensively wants to know if you might be up for a salty snack after you mourn.