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Mr. Peanut’s Death: Is it Funny in Light of Recent Events?

Mr. Peanut costume

Today, Kraft Heinz Co. has apologized for the ill-timed “killing” of Planter’s spokescharacter, Mr. Peanut reports The Wall Street Journal in light of the helicopter crash that killed NBA star, Kobe Bryant.

In case you haven’t heard, Planters released a new TV commercial ahead of the 2020 Super Bowl in which that crazy little nut met a tragic fate while saving the lives of Wesley Snipes and Matt Walsh while on a mythical road trip.

According to the report, the company had planned to run the commercial during the pregame coverage of the big game while following it up with another that featured a funeral for the 104-year-old mascot. Planters is currently “mourning” Mr. Peanut on its website saying, “While Mr. Peanut may no longer be with us, his snackable spirit lives on.” But it gets worse.

Planters had mailed a number of prayer candles for the peanut’s death to help promote the TV commercial. Of course, they were mailed before any announcement was made about Bryant’s death.

“We deeply regret any offense or upset caused by this coincidental timing,” said a spokesperson for Planters. “We wanted you to know that we are saddened by this weekend’s news and Planters has paused all campaign activities, including paid media, and will evaluate next steps through a lens of sensitivity to those impacted by this tragedy.”

One has to wonder if portraying death is ever a good idea for advertisers. In the same article, The Wall Street Journal says that sometime it works and points out that Anheuser-Busch InBev SA had killed off its Bud Knight character during last year’s game, however the company brought him back months later.

In 1980, Jack in the Box made the infamous decision to “blow up the clown,” but in that commercial, “Jack” was just a plastic clown face that sat on top the restaurant’s drive-thru speakers. Nevertheless, Jack came back in 1994 re-telling about how he got “fired” years earlier. He’s been with us ever since.

I don’t want to make too big of deal about this. It is just advertising for a snack product after all. Companies usually create mascots to help people identify their products and hopefully create some happy feelings at the same time. Honestly though, I’ve never really been a fan a Mr. Peanut to begin with. I saw a costumed character of him once or twice as a kid and just thought he looked creepy. But that is beside the point.

I can see why Planters might have wanted to get rid of Mr. Peanut, but why not just quietly stop printing his image on the cans? At best, this commercial isn’t very funny and at worst, it’s in poor taste. Death is rarely funny.

With that said, I wouldn’t get too upset if Charmin found a way to arrange a little “accident” of its TP-loving bears…

(Main Image: John Margolies Roadside America photograph archive (1972-2008), Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

Jeffrey Totey View All

I write about arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.

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