Mtn Dew’s Puppy Monkey Baby is back

The soda brand’s marketing VP explains the comeback of the 2016 Super Bowl ad star and why self-referential ads are a hit with Gen Z 

Published On
Feb 17, 2022

Editor's Pick

Mtn Dew’s Puppy Monkey Baby—last seen on TV in a 2016 Super Bowl ad—is coming out of retirement. 

The creature, an anatomic amalgamation of three of the most commonly used creative devices in Super Bowl spots, makes a brief cameo in a new campaign from the soda brand that pokes fun at advertising tropes. The diaper-wearing furball with baby human legs shows up at the tail end of an ad that mocks over-the-top product placements and features NBA star Zach LaVine and actor and comedian Charlie Day.

The spot is part of a 10-ad campaign from TBWA/Chiat/Day New York that will get airtime during TNT’s coverage of this weekend’s NBA All-Star game activities. The ads show Day acting out various ad clichés, including one in which he portrays an earnest grandpa pitching raspberry lemonade (until he bursts through the costume and scares the grandkids). In another ad, LaVine pokes fun at the unboxing craze. (See some of the ads below.) 

But for ad nerds, Puppy Monkey Baby is the real star, even though his appearance is fleeting. The character made its debut in a 2016 Super Bowl, with Ad Age at the time describing it this way: "What if the E-Trade baby was crossbred with the Budweiser puppy and a CareerBuilder monkey...?"

But the creature was so bizarre, it stood out—which is more than half the battle with Super Bowl advertising. Until now, Puppy Monkey Baby seemed destined to be a one-hit-wonder. While Dew referenced it from time to time on its social channels, the creature was kept off TV. 

“We've looked at the response—it was very jarring for some when we did it back in 2016,” said Pat O’Toole, VP of marketing at Mtn Dew. “He’s polarizing, for sure, but he's fun, he’s memorable.”

And he remains a part of pop culture today, popping up in conversations on Reddit, for instance, or as an image for tattoos, birthday cakes and Halloween costumes, according to O’Toole.  

What’s most important for Dew is that Gen Z, a key demographic for the soda, loves him, O'Toole said. The brand’s superfans have no recollection of stars such as Brad Pitt or Chuck Norris starring in old Dew ads, “but they know Puppy Monkey Baby,” O’Toole said.

“We were looking for the right time to bring him back and we felt with where we were taking this campaign, he fits very well,” O’Toole said.

The spots continue the recent trend of brands using self-referential ads that mock ads, including by breaking through the so-called fourth wall. Much of Ryan Reynolds’ brand work relies on this tactic, which also popped up in some Super Bowl marketing, including one video from Miller Lite. The ad, which was exclusive to the metaverse, poked fun at the staples of Big Game advertising, from a “relatable farmer” to a big-name, “culturally-relevant” pop star.

“Gen Z has very much been vocal about brands that take themselves too seriously and we saw an insight there,” O’Toole said. “We know that others have looked at this insight, but we wanted to do it in a way that pokes fun advertising in general but [also] a little bit of fun at ourselves,” he said, without being “too inside baseball.” 

First-class status

Mtn Dew teased Puppy Monkey Baby’s comeback with a tweet on Super Bowl Sunday.

As for why his moment is so brief, O’Toole said: “We are not going to overexpose him, we know he had his moment in the sun.”

He also has limited speaking abilities, confined to three words, his own name: “Puppy. Monkey. Baby.” 

In the original ad, which was from BBDO New York, he breaks into a living room, repeats his name over and over and licks the face of one of three guys sitting on a couch while inducing them to try the then-new Mtn Dew Kickstart, made from Mtn Dew, fruit juice and caffeine — or as the ad stated,  "three awesome things combined” (just like a puppy monkey and a baby).


In that spot, Dew made the approximately two-and-a-half foot tall puppet mobile with the help of CGI. The new ad relies on puppetry alone, with three humans maneuvering the mascot.

Since his breakout Super Bowl performance, Puppy Monkey Baby has taken on legend status inside Dew-owner PepsiCo’s Purchase, New York headquarters, where he lives in a glass case on a floor occupied by the marketing department,  O’Toole said. 

For the new ad, they flew the puppet to Los Angeles for the shoot. “He got first-class treatment,”  O’Toole said, “as every celeb deserves.”

Below, some additional ads from the campaign: