Mr. Peanut, the fictional spokesperson for Planter's Peanuts, has apparently died. At least, that's according to the verified Twitter account for "The Estate of Mr. Peanut." I say "apparently" because I don't know if a fictional character is able to "die." That's a lot of quotes for one paragraph, but that's the reality of the marketing world we live in.
According to Kraft Heinz, the maker of Planters, the entire thing is a preview of the company's Super Bowl ad, which will memorialize the famous monocle-wearing legume. "We encourage fans to tune in to Mr. Peanut's funeral during the third quarter of the Super Bowl to celebrate his life," said Samantha Hess, a brand manager for the company.
Well, that's an interesting advertising tactic.
Sure, for decades advertisers have used the Super Bowl to highlight their boldest efforts at capturing the attention of consumers, but I'm not sure I can remember a time when a brand killed off a well-known mascot just for the sake of publicity.
In fact, I think it's fair to say that the tweet and the ad, regardless of what they say about the death of Mr. Peanut, have plenty to say about the death of advertising. Or, more specifically, the death of traditional advertising.
I say that because, in a world where brands are increasingly defined by their most recent engagement on social media, the temptation is to generate as much buzz as possible by doing outrageous or extreme things. I'm not sure how else to describe the fake death of a fake mascot, but this is where we are.
There are certainly examples of brands using social media to create a win. Oreo's tweet during a power outage during Super Bowl XLVII was the perfect example of a brand seizing the opportunity in front of it. It ended up stealing the show with a tweet that garnered 10,000 retweets in an hour, and probably generated more buzz than the million-dollar ad the company ran during the game.
Or there was the tweet from Arby's during the 2014 Grammy Awards that pointed out the similarity between the company's logo and a certain musician's choice in headwear.
But the beauty of those tweets was that they happened in reaction to real-world events. That isn't the case with Mr. Peanut. In fact, there's literally nothing more manufactured than a pre-planned marketing campaign featuring a tweet announcing the death of a made-up brand character just to generate buzz for a pretend funeral for said character.
Think about the creative meeting for this: Some social media-savvy account manager pitched the idea that this tired mascot really needed to be permanently retired. And, desperate to attract the attention of salty-snack-craving Millennials, the company agreed.
At the time I'm writing this, the tweet has 12,700 retweets, which I guess means that the ploy worked. That is, at least, if the goal was to generate attention.
And so, during the third quarter of the Super Bowl, we'll get to watch a memorial service. As we do, I won't be mourning for the loss of Mr. Peanut. I'll grieve, instead, for a time when brands didn't have to concoct absurd social media campaigns just to feel like they're relevant. That died long ago.