The televised funeral of recently deceased Planters spokes-legume Mr. Peanut – a commercial set to air during Sunday’s Super Bowl – will continue as planned, despite the ad’s similarities to the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, a Planters spokesman confirmed Monday. None of these are words that anyone could have predicted would go together in one sentence, but here we are.
The company is pausing its online ad campaign on social media sites such as Twitter and YouTube but has not planned to alter or cancel its ad for the big game – which, coincidentally, features the death of a celebrity icon in a fiery crash on a remote hillside. The first commercial was “leaked” Jan. 22, and showed Mr. Peanut with actors Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh ejected from the Nutmobile, a peanut-shaped vehicle, in a devastating crash. Snipes and Walsh survive, but Mr. Peanut perishes. Planters plans to show an additional commercial in the third quarter of the game that features Mr. Peanut’s funeral.
Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, and seven other passengers died Sunday morning when their helicopter crashed into a hillside near Calabasas, California. Authorities are investigating the crash, which took place in poor weather.
“We are saddened by this weekend’s news and Planters has paused campaign activities, including paid media, and will evaluate next steps through a lens of sensitivity to those impacted by this tragedy,” said a company spokesman. “At this point, the pause impacts only paid advertising (on channels like Twitter and YouTube), and some other outreach in the immediate wake of this tragedy. No change has been made to our plans for Super Bowl Sunday.”
Ad Age first reported that the company was rethinking its marketing leading up to the Super Bowl. A social media campaign had encouraged people to “pay your respects” with the hashtag #RIPeanut, and Planters changed its Twitter handle to “The Estate of Mr. Peanut.” Twitter users joke-mourned the death of the 104-year-old mascot with fan art and comments about his legacy.
Many of them were negative: “Mr Peanut was a bootlicker who made his fortune off the oppression and death of his fellow peanuts. I am glad he’s dead,” said one Twitter user. Mr. Peanut “roasting” in hell quickly became a meme.
That meant thousands of people were talking about the ad more than a week before the Super Bowl – an indication of its success. It even featured prominently on the cold open for this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live,” in a sketch that showed Trump lawyer Alan Dershowitz (played by comedian Jon Lovitz) being interviewed for Satan’s podcast in hell, where all of Dershowitz’s friends come by to greet him: Jeffrey Epstein, the guy who wrote the “Baby Shark” song, and, yes, Mr. Peanut.
“You ended up in hell?” Dershowitz asks Mr. Peanut.
“Well, I took out a lot of first-graders with peanut allergies,” said Mr. Peanut. “Plus, I never wore pants.”
Mr. Peanut’s death was mentioned again on the show’s “Weekend Update.”
“In accordance with his wishes, he has been cremated,” said host Michael Che, appearing before an image of peanut butter.
The jokes were over by the time Bryant’s death was announced Sunday, though, with the company observing that it would be in poor taste to grieve over a fictitious peanut when people were mourning the NBA superstar.
It’s not the first time current events have forced advertisers to rethink their Super Bowl marketing. Last year, Jeff Bezos – founder of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post and spaceflight company Blue Origin – yanked a $20 million ad for the latter company after it was revealed that he was having an affair with Lauren Sanchez, who had helped produce the commercial.