Maya Rudolph's Super Bowl 2023 Ad Was Even Weirder Than The Spokescandies Controversy

They say any publicity is good publicity, but the animosity directed at M&M's in the last year is definitely not what the brand was hoping for. The company made changes to its candy characters in 2022, including the changes to its spokescandies with the goal of promoting inclusivity and positivity. Instead, M&M's found themselves at the center of a culture war, slapped by news outlets and even politicians with the contentious label of "woke." In response, the company tweeted that its Spokescandies would take a break, and they tapped comedian and "Baking It" host Maya Rudolph to step in and calm things down.

If the idea of political divisiveness revolving around chocolate-filled candies seems absurd, Maya Rudolph appears to agree. Since becoming the face of M&M's, Rudolph has embraced the absurdity with several mock ads that announce her changes to the candies, like adding her likeness to every M&M and renaming the candies after herself: Ma&Ya's. In another ad, Rudolph shares a new take on M&M's, ditching the chocolate filling for one of chopped clams. Her new Super Bowl LVII commercial goes all in on this stomach-churning idea, and this one is the weirdest, by far.

Let's hope that Maya Rudolph's seafood-candy combo stays a joke

Maya Rudolph's Super Bowl commercial for M&M's — or Ma&Ya's — opens with a snack vendor angrily ripping down a poster of M&M's characters; a pretty on-the-nose reference to the controversy that led to the candies getting canceled and replaced. Then Rudolph appears in a colorful garden with folksy music playing as M&M's rain down (all with her face stamped on them, of course). She sings that it's a magic land with "bite-sized candies filled with clams," though the tearful, head-shaking people around her who eat them are not feeling the magic. The end of the commercial reveals that the cartoon M&M's characters have turned into a diverse, live-action cast of human spokescandies. 

M&M characters Red and Yellow are there, too. Yellow sits in the background happily eating the fishy treats, but Red pops out from behind Rudolph with a "Help!" sign, and silently pleads with viewers.  

Rudolph ends by asking all of us, "You want one?" No, Ms. Rudolph, nobody wants that clam candy! Can fans get back to enjoying their chocolate M&M's now?

How M&M's found themselves in the middle of this very public feud

Some brands see divisive topics as an opportunity to jump in and help stir the pot, and to get some free promotion. M&M's, however, seemed truly stunned by the drama caused by changes to their cartoon candy mascots in 2022. Fox News host Tucker Carlson got the outrage ball rolling after the company traded the high heel shoes of two female M&M characters for sneakers and flats. Carlson lamented that the changes would leave people "turned off." He was widely mocked by late show hosts, who asked the question on the minds of many: Are we supposed to be getting turned on by cartoon candy characters? And yet, some people across social media followed Carlson's lead, declaring that M&M's were now "woke." 

In a tweet, the company wrote that this backlash was "the last thing M&M's wanted since we're all about bringing people together." The spokescandies were put on hold, and newly-anointed spokesperson Maya Rudolph was brought in. Some on social media celebrated this development as a sign that M&M's had given in to pressure from conservative criticism, that the candies were now canceled. But it turns out they may have just been played by a chocolate-filled candy.

In the end M&M's has the last laugh

Maya Rudolph amped up the hilarity of her quest for a reimagined M&M by leaning into two things she claimed the whole world loves: Maya Rudolph and clams. Along with the funny-odd ads, M&M's kept social media viewers posted on what the original "Spokescandies" were up to. In a tweet, the company shared that the candies hadn't gone away: They were "exploring their passions," such as sportscasting and starting an eBay store. 

On Super Bowl Sunday, posts on the company's Twitter feed teased a second quarter announcement: The "Spokescandies" are back "for good," with the candies themselves appearing in a press conference. Red M&M sums up the whole, bizarre saga, saying, "I can't believe WE were actually put on 'pause'." (Putting "pause" in air quotes!")

With the un-cancellation of the spokescandies, it remains to be seen if they'll continue to generate as much discontent. Regardless, M&M's has emerged triumphant from the firestorm. As The New York Times shares, M&M's and Maya Rudolph essentially "trend-jacked" the controversy, soaking up the free media attention of the last year to promote their brands. And in the end? The company will still feature those M&M spokescandies in ads and on packaging, new shoes and all. As one person tweeted after seeing the Super Bowl ad, "We all got played."