M&M: Mars and Maya

Mischief is afoot this week with the Super Bowl returning for its LVII season and, with it, the inevitable roll-out of the best of 2023’s television advertising. There will be ads that are sure to make us laugh, cry and in this case; confused?

Last year, I wrote about the M&M controversy when Mars Inc, the parent company for the M&M’s brand, had softened the image of the “female” candies. The Green M&M had swapped her “sexy” go-go boots for sneakers, and the brown M&M (who recently joined this group in 2012) switched from her “sexy” high heels she’s worn as a chocolate business executive (that’s in her “bio”) to a lower heel shoe. They also removed some of the Green M&M’s eye make-up.

Well, these changes caused a media backlash. Some thought Mars had gone too far to placate progressive voices, while others thought they hadn’t gone far enough.

Mars had a chocolatey mess on their hands. They went into meetings for months about the negative publicity, and when they emerged, they posted a statement on Twitter.

“America let’s talk. In the last year, we made some changes to our beloved spokescandies. We weren’t sure if anyone would even notice. And we definitely didn’t think it would break the internet. But we get it – even a candy’s shoes can be polarizing. Which was the last thing M&Ms wanted since we’re all about bringing people together.

Therefore, we have decided to take an indefinite pause from the spokescandies. In their place, we are proud to introduce a spokesperson America can agree on – the beloved Maya Rudolph. We are confident Ms. Rudolph will champion the power of fun to create a world where everyone feels they belong.”

They are right. Who doesn’t love Maya Rudolph? I know her from Saturday Night Live and the movie Bridesmaids. I am also aware of that interesting part of her bio, which states that she is the daughter of Minnie Riperton. Who?

Minnie Riperton was a popular singer who had a monster hit in the 1970’s “Loving You.” Every teen girl back then tried to mimic that iconic four octave vocal range culminating in the “Ahhhhhh” at the end of every verse.

After the announcement, Rudolph responded “I am a lifelong lover of the candy and I feel like it’s such an honor to be asked to be part of such a legendary brand’s campaign, it’s a very fun pairing, if I do say so myself.”

“Okay, we are moving on” I thought. The candies have joined stars like Dan Levy and Danny DeVito in Super Bowl ads for decades. But now Maya will go solo.

Or is she? It appears Mars has something more up its candy sleeves and they are using a red (and green and brown) herring to throw the public off.

According to the site Polygon.com:

“After a whirlwind of announcements, and then backtracking on those announcements, it turns out the M&M’s “spokescandies” mascots are here to stay after all.

On Friday, a spokesperson from Mars Wrigley confirmed to the New York Times that the candy characters would be returning in an ad for the upcoming Super Bowl. The news comes after the company said, on Monday, that it would be pulling the characters from branding “indefinitely” and replacing the characters with the comedian Maya Rudolph.

“Mars would not waffle so quickly” I thought, they had a year to plan. And then the new “guerilla” ad campaign hit the airwaves this week. As an old college advertising minor, I can say “guerilla campaigns” are a real technique. Don’t think combat, think surprise.

Have you seen them yet? The first includes Maya Rudolph quietly sitting at a desk, by herself, explaining that she is the new spokesperson. She then proceeds to open a bag of M&M’s, pulls one out to show that it has her face on it. Then you see all the candies in the bag have her face on them.

The next ad also has a close-up of Rudolph and this time she explains that she has re-branded the name from M&M to Ma&Ya’s (Maya).  Ma&Ya’s now has its own Twitter page (@mmschocolate).

I laughed. Social media has outraged customers saying that they won’t buy “Ma-Yas” or eat the clam-flavored ones (a third ad.)

It was then when I realized Mars is only pulling some candy-coated shells over our eyes. This is just one huge publicity stunt for them. It’s a classic Super Bowl fake-out play. They have no intention on replacing their beloved cartoon candies with a comedian.

What began as a legitimate complaint about why candies had to be “sexy”, evolved into Mars acknowledging the mistake and then successfully turning it into something that brings the humor back.  They are stirring up a little buzz too for Sunday. This is only a guess, but I think we will see an M&M ad which incorporates both Ms. Rudolph and the candy mascots. She is a song and dance talent too, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was an over-the-top musical number.

I could not resist this story since I covered the sexy debacle a year ago. And I give kudos to Mars for turning a negative into a fun positive. I’ll be watching this Sunday. I hope the ad scores.




  1. As I read the story, I was thinking about how touchy we are as a public these days. Is it because we know so much about everybody including big companies? Is it because social media gives access to so many people who don’t mind expounding on every little thing? Has the public become more socially aware and committed to redressing injustice?

    Anyway, I enjoyed your telling of the story. I do like M&Ms, especially when they are packaged inside a jar of nuts. Your story also led me down the rabbit trail of “Minnie Riperton,” whose song and voice I must have heard before even though the name did not ring a bell. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoy your thoughts and questions here Marian, although I’m not sure I have the answers. Perhaps, younger generations simply pay more attention to injustices against groups and individuals at every level. They want every voice to be heard. And then social media is the delivery system for building that awareness and activism for change. I think it builds and spreads to now limitless causes. I have a weakness for the mint M&M’s! The peanut butter ones give me heartburn, lol. I always smile when I hear Ms. Riperton’s song, it’s one of those soundtrack of my life memories. I’m glad you enjoyed her!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was proud of myself for remembering the song that put Minnie Ripperton on the map without you telling me. Too bad I don’t have that same awareness of modern pop culture. One good thing about teaching elementary school is that the kids keep you in the loop.

    I’m a big football geek, so my main focus will be the game, but I appreciate the effort and creativity that goes into Super Bowl commercials. It’s crazy what one of those commercials costs, but companies wouldn’t pay the exorbitant fees unless there was a substantial economic payoff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I am a bit of a pop culture nerd Pete. 🙂 The trivia just sticks on me for some reason. I’m glad you remembered the song! It was a classic. After your thought about the cost of the ads, I looked it up, lol. This year a 30-second ad costs 7 million dollars! Mars better sell A LOT of M&Ms! Enjoy the game Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had no idea Maya was the daughter of Minnie Riperton! Now I can’t get that song out of my head 😂. I love Maya and I was totally caught off guard with her commercial for M&M’s- which as you say is exactly what the ad execs had in mind. I love how your blogs bring out a totally new way of looking at the simple things in life! I guess even our beloved M&M’s have to keep up with our changing times!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Pam. I’ll admit I love both pop culture and media, so this was an easy topic to investigate. 🙂 I’m glad you can put Maya’s bizarre ads in context now, I was scratching my head at the Maya M&M, hahaha. And sorry about putting that melody on repeat in your head, but boy, does it take me back. Have a great weekend!


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