M&Ms Comeback Delights Audiences


Back For Good


M&Ms made the worst ad of the Super Bowl.

They also made one of the best.

M&Ms’ announcement that they were retiring their ‘Spokescandies’ sparked weeks of speculation and social media talk. Most of it, to be fair, was sceptical – you don’t have to be a jaded marketing professional to be a little suspicious about a brand claiming to be ditching its most famous asset.

When comedian Maya Rudolph appeared in the teaser ads as the brand’s power-crazed new spokesperson, it became obvious what the joke would be – Maya appears in the Super Bowl ad, setting up the M&Ms’ triumphant return.

And that’s exactly how it played out. But what took commentators by surprise is that the main M&Ms in-game ad was all Maya, promoting a deliberately disgusting clam-flavored variant (which Mars Wrigley should probably make anyway to cash in on the publicity). And the reveal of the spokescandies’ return was saved for a brief ident and then an ad immediately after the final whistle.

At System1 we decided to test both ads using our advertising insights platform and our audience insights platform: even if the follow-up was technically not a game ad, it was clearly part 2 of a 2-part spot.

The Maya Rudolph ad tested abominably. We didn’t even think it was possible for a confectionery ad for a major brand to get our lowest score, 1.0 Stars. But M&Ms managed it. And as the game went on with no resolving creative, we thought M&Ms might have made an all-time fumble.

Then the second spot arrived, with the spokescandies’ return, and tested extremely well. At 4.8 Stars it was viewers’ most loved food and beverage ad of the night, capturing second place behind Disney in our overall Top 10.

And that’s why it’s our Ad Of The Week.

If you only look at the first ad, M&Ms had a disastrous night. If you look at the second as well, they were a strong performer in a game full of solid though not exceptional ads.

Why? There are two ways you can look at it.

The first is that M&Ms did a great job. They used their iconic mascots to take a risk and have some fun – much like Planters’ “Death Of Mr Peanut” from 2020. Because the mascots are so strong, they could zag away from them with Maya Rudolph in the knowledge that when they zigged back the public would love it. And in the meantime – heaps of pre-game publicity.

The second is that M&Ms had a lucky escape. They spent their Super Bowl budget on a self-indulgent stunt which audiences hated, and it would have backfired if those same audiences didn’t love the candies so much that they’re happy to see them whatever the circumstances.

According to our market research, we believe the first – plenty of spokescandies ads have come in lower than 4.8, so it’s not just the characters that are building positive opinion here.

But both these interpretations have one thing in common. They understand that the ad proves how the spokescandies are one of the strongest brand assets in the world. Putting them front and center in the Super Bowl campaign was a smart move for M&Ms and like the Chiefs’ offensive strategy, at the very last minute it paid off.


At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful ad testing platform (Test Your Ad) and our idea testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand tracking tool which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.

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