Thursday, August 8, 2013

M&Ms Ads - Becoming Superstars

When last we talked about the M&Ms the little candy coated super-stars we're headed full tilt into the new Millennium. While other companies we're floundering to maintain clean cut mascots in a world full of cynical and way too smart kids the M&Ms managed to ride a tide of good will bolstered by smart mature humor and a constantly evolving sensibility that kept them fresh. Maybe what worked so well for them was that they stopped being aimed specifically at kids. The M&M characters left their pure cartoon roots with the introduction of the mixed media CG versions of the characters, and Mars stopped even making commercials without them. They reached a mass awareness that few mascots have ever achieved and kept on pushing, to become, and stay, the biggest of mega-stars in the candy world.

To be honest, figuring out how this all went down is pretty confusing so |I'm going to assume I will be getting some of this wrong. Lets be clear: I am not a historian. This is a light fun pop survey of the modern M&M characters as seen through their advertizing. There are other places on the web, or in print if you're looking for cold hard facts. Like Yellow, we're just here to have a good time :)

So as we got into the early 00s foreign markets expanded, the brand grew, and ads specifically targeted at non-western markets began to hit. This change alone makes sifting the chaff on the internet pretty complicated especially since some of the campaigns and ads were used in different countries at different times, or under different circumstances. Anyhow, suffice it to say the opening of foreign markets and ad campaigns, makes it extremely messy.

Lets take a step back though and have a look at some ads.  As the century ended, the M&Ms were interacting with celebs in new mixed media adverts, and establishing the core dynamic of the Red Yellow relationship that we all know and love.

The candies declaring themselves the Spokescandies of the new Millennium at end of '97, and I missed one ad they featured in one that I had to share. I love this one, and wanted to make sure I posted it.



Its great to see Dick Clark still young (youngish) and its nice that he was comfortable making fun of his age.

With the launch of Crispy M&Ms in '99 there were more than a few ads featuring the new character and flavor.



Oh Puddy. You always entertain me :D



And Red, you're always pulling fast ones...

As I said Red and Yellow especially we're developing the classic Laurel and Hardy playing off each other riffs, and the public loved it. Here are a few other turn of the century ads that feature the M&Ms just being their own funny selves.



That is a little disturbing. funny but disturbing. This next one just features Red, but its pretty cute.



And finally here's an ad from '99 that I think shows where all the ads were headed in the early '00s.



This is a really great one. The airport ad is awesome because it showcases Red and Yellow doing their thing. It's got them bickering lovingly, being funny interacting with our world. They even break the fourth wall directly, they acknowledge that they are in fact candy, and it all wraps up with a solid tag at the end. This is the shape of the ads to come.

Getting into the 2000s for real-sies now they launched a fun campaign at the start of the year.



This is great on a number of levels, but I think the most important thing to note is the solo color offering. This is one of the first time solo colors were offered for a promotion. AND this wasn't a promotion tied into a holiday like Easter or Xmas where they gave us specially colored (or flavored) editions of the candy. This was just for the heck of it.

Another fun thing came up in the year 2000. And the next very serious ad addresses it perfectly.



That's right. Plain has changed, and in 2000 M&Ms re-branded their classic candy as Milk Chocolate. Such an obvious thing, but remember back when M&Ms started it was really a different world.



One more cute one on this, because I as I've mentioned before I smile for Patrick Warburton and always want him to succeed.

2000 also saw the release of two new M&M video games: The Lost Formula and Mini Madness.



In 2001 M&Ms started a long and strange journey trying out a lot of weird and sometimes very interesting flavors. For this outing they tried their hand at Dulce de Leche in some 5 Hispanic countries. Although it was a valiant attempt and actually sounds pretty good there wasn't much interest apparently and the product line was discontinued by '03.



In 2002 the ads continued, only got a bit more sophisticated. The Laurel and Hardy routine that Red and Yellow we're perfecting still had to be tempered. As much as I like the Airport commercial above its also VERY 90s. Here's the kind of standard ad that typified the early 2000s. Even though it only has Red you can see that it shows a literal and quirky take on the candy. More importantly it's just plain funny.



Love that Bradley Whitford (and this ad is during the height of his run on The West Wing).

2002 also saw the return and update of a previous successful ad campaign. The Global Color Vote was essentially the same trick they'd pulled in '95 but this time it was between Pink, Purple, or Aqua as the new color.



Here's a French ad featuring some cheerleaders?!



After Purple won the contest, it became an M&M color for a limited time. I'm not sure why they didn't keep it around or give us a new mascot like they did when Blue made the scene but they did feature a nifty contest looking for the bag full of Purple M&Ms to win a prize.



In 2004 the M&Ms launched another cool color campaign, only this one was all about the missing color! The hunt was on to find Grey M&Ms this time and it all started with this funny ad.



Here's one that maybe explains it a bit better.



And I always loved this bloodhound one though. Great stuff.



One of the interesting things about M&Ms getting so popular in the 2000s is that they started doing huge tie in marketing promotions. M&Ms had a number of movie tie ins over the years  2004 saw the start of the cross media tie ins, And not just with The Wizard of Oz. No instead I mean this beauty below inspired by the Addams Family to promote another limited run on Dark Chocolate M&Ms.



That's not all from '04 though. M&Ms also got big, and I don't mean regular big, I mean OGRE sized!



I actually think this tie in with Shrek 2 is a great one. M&Ms and Shrek are a really perfectly paired brand. But since M&Ms were in the midst of experiments in size and shape 2004 saw the first appearance of the most radical change yet, the M-Azing chocolate bar!



It sounds like the M-Azing bar was only moderately successful. The bar apparently stuck around in some form or another straight through until today and was finally re-branded and re-launched in 2013 as the new M&M chocolate bar. A bit more on that in the next post.

Aside from featuring in the new M-Azing  bar, the M&M Minis we're also going strong in '04. I posted a few ads from this era of the Minis in my last blog post on this subject but here is another one to show you where the Mini advertizing was at the time.



At first I thought it seemed like a very 90s ad but then I realized that the M&M minis were being targeted at kids, while regular M&Ms were targeted at everyone.

Speaking of mass marketing the following year M&Ms teamed up with another film franchise that had probably the biggest mass market appeal possible. Watch the ad below to see the M&Ms join the Dark Side...



Watching this I have to wonder why Mars never just out and out put out a Dark Chocolate M&M on a permanent basis. I know they've got a few specialties at all times these days, but its weird that they kept bringing it back as a limited run.

2005 also saw the launch of Mega M&Ms. I'm guessing that the Ogre sized M&Ms went over so well that they decided to continue the line.



I know that ad didn't have the M&M characters in it but its pretty funny..

If the Chocolate M-Pire tie in wasn't the breaking point then it had to be the M&M tie ins for '06. These guys weren't just well known spokes-candies, they were true celebrities unto themselves. In 2006 Red and Yellow made a mark adjacent to Joan Rivers at the Academy Awards pre-show. To me this is huge.



Think about the number of eyeballs on that broadcast. Think about the fact that there are people who care about this from really all over the world. Its pretty serious stuff. I mean as serious as you can get for entertainers who aren't actually stars on the big screen.

They may be super-commercialized.... but can you blame them? I mean they are commercial characters. 2006 also saw ties ins for Pirates 3, and Shrek 3.


Pirates 3 in saw the launch of limited time white chocolate M&Ms, and Shrek the Third saw the return of Ogre sized M&Ms again, as well as this vacation contest.



I'm going to jump ahead a bit now, in 2008 M&Ms finally hit on a weird urban myth for their gain. At Valentines they launched a limited run of all green M&Ms. Green you ask? yes. I'm not sure how well known the rumor is now, but I totally remember as a kid hearing that green M&Ms we're for sexy time...



These also came at Christmas time that year. As good a time as any for an aphrodisiac (weather its true or not).

The summer of 2008 saw another side product launched from M&Ms. The M&M ice cream bar.




Its true...



That's pretty funny :)

 New limited time flavors also emerged in 2008. Wild Cherry hit the scene alongside Mint Crisp M&Ms as a promotion tied into Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.



The biggest promotion of 2008 though came with the launch of mymms.com. Now there was finally a chance to change things up, and get your face, or whatever you wanted printed onto your M&Ms. Very exciting stuff.


After this commercial Mars took a different tack making a bunch of pretty funny commercials letting regular people become an M&M.


That ones probably my favorite, but there are some other great ones.


ha, contacts...


Gross but funny.


ha, earholes...


Good stuff all around.

Before I finally wrap this very long blog post up I'll mention one more 2008 M&Ms item. The launch of Premiums. Ms Green finally got something all her own here and it turned out quite well.

5 flavors of premiums were launched. I know I ate a few of them. They had a 'high end' vibe to them and I suppose they were pretty decadent.


Of course we know that Mint has been around since this time in on again off again limited runs, but this is where I first had it. A few more of the flavors were Rasberry Almond, which is actually a current limited run flavor, and Triple Chocolate. Both sound great to me.



I've had these and they do taste great.



mmm... so delicious sounding.

When we come back to this topic, I'll pick up from 2008 and we can watch some more ads together. These crazy M&Ms just became superstars right under your noses...  pretty impressive.  Thanks all, later :)

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