Planters used its Super Bowl ad to give new life to its mascot, as a Baby Nut emerged from Mr. Peanut’s burial plot, morphing the funereal campaign into a celebration of new life.
The campaign from VaynerMedia drew heavy scrutiny in the wake of the Jan. 26 helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others. Planters, which had ambitious social media plans, put those efforts on hold after the crash so as to not look insensitive. But the brand ultimately decided to go through with the in-game ad "after thoughtful and careful consideration," Samantha Hess, Planters brand manager at Kraft Heinz, told Ad Age in an interview.
“Tribute,” which aired during the second quarter of the Super Bowl, showed mourners including Kool-Aid Man and Mr. Clean at the funeral for Mr. Peanut. The service was led by Wesley Snipes who, along with actor Matt Walsh, was in the Nutmobile with Mr. Peanut before his death in a prior commercial called "Road Trip." The spokescharacter's death in that ad, which first ran last month, led to a steady stream of tributes and reactions on social media.
Planters opted not to run that ad again in the Super Bowl pre-game, as it originally planned. But it resumed its social media activities by midday Sunday.
During the in-game ad Mr. Clean is consoling a teary Kool-Aid Man at the graveside service. Kool-Aid Man utters a somber take on his “Oh Yeah” catchphrase, then one of his tears falls to the peanut-shaped mound of dirt where Mr. Peanut was laid to rest. A plant begins to grow and out pops Baby Nut, wearing a top hat and spats and chirping in a babble seemingly created to make people at Super Bowl parties turn toward the screen.
“Just kidding, I’m back,” says Baby Nut. “Where’s my monocle?”
Baby Nut is voiced by comedian Anders Holm ("Workaholics"). Kool-Aid Man and Mr. Clean are on hand as representatives of the dozens of brands that engaged with Mr. Peanut’s Twitter handle — renamed “The Estate of Mr. Peanut” — after “Road Trip” aired. Kool-Aid, which like Planters is owned by Kraft Heinz, was involved in the process. And Procter & Gamble, which owns the Mr. Clean character, was aware of how he would be used. Another Kraft Heinz brand is also represented, with the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile parked alongside the Planters Nutmobile near the service.
“We set out this year to create the most talked-about Super Bowl ad of all time,” Hess said. That is an ambitious goal, of course, and one that could potentially be complicated by the reaction the ad gets in the wake of Bryant's death.
However the spot is received, the campaign helped Planters hit the reset button for a new chapter for the brand and the aging Mr. Peanut spokescharater. Hess declined to reveal how the brand will handle packaging changes, saying the marketer is still working through some of those details. At present the 104-year-old Mr. Peanut appears on packs.
Some are bound to draw connections between Baby Nut and Marvel’s Baby Groot (the sapling offshoot of a tree-like humanoid character who died in "Guardians of the Galaxy") or between Baby Nut and the so-called Baby Yoda in “The Mandalorian.”