Rest in pieces, Mr. Peanut

Baby Nut, the reincarnation of Mr. Peanut, was introduced during a Super Bowl commercial Feb. 2. Photo courtesy of Adweek.  

CLAIRE BARNETT | OPINION COLUMNIST | cgbarnet@butler.edu

As a member of the community that does not asphyxiate upon their consumption, I’ll be the first to say it — I like nuts. From almonds to walnuts to cashews, the options are virtually limitless. 

But just as nuts might irritate the windpipes of an unfortunate few in this country, as of late, a specific nut has begun to irritate my allergen-free thoughts in a way I didn’t really ever think possible.

This nut I make mention of is Mr. Peanut — the smug, monocle-eyed motherf—er who just so happens to be representative of Planters brand of mainly peanut products. Planters proclaims him to be “America’s favorite talking peanut” and even goes so far as to describe him as your “Wingnut,” apparently implying that the nut-man hybrid will be there to cater to your needs during all of your instances of desperation.

The idea of having a mascot is understandable. Mr. Peanut is easy to brand, and it makes Planters easily recognizable when you’re in a rush to choose between the eight different cans of identical party mixes that lay strewn upon the shelf in your local Kroger.

However, if this is the case, it makes the fact that they aggressively killed him off in their most recent advertising campaign all the more absurd to me.

In the advertisement, Mr. Peanut is depicted as driving the NutMobile — a peanut shaped all-wheel drive, I’m assuming — with B-list celebrities Matt Walsh and Wesley Snipes as passengers. Mr. Peanut swerves behind the wheel in an attempt to miss a crossing armadillo, and the three are ejected from the vehicle and left dangling off of a tree branch that is situated over a cliff. Said branch also happens to be seconds away from snapping. Being the loyal Wingnut that he is, Mr. Peanut sacrifices himself to save Walsh and Snipes. He lands atop the NutMobile, which erupts into flames upon his making contact with the vehicle.

The fact that a marketing team could sit down at a round table, discuss the pros and cons of this campaign, and still decide that this is something they should run is baffling to me. The problems that I have with this campaign extend beyond the fact that it’s inherently insensitive — which is evident in their decision to cut the advertisement from airing during the Superbowl pregame following Kobe Bryant’s tragic and untimely passing. 

I’m mainly unsettled by the fact that Planters used the death of their own pop-culture figure to generate profits for their company. Honestly, it’s outright dumb, and it perfectly expresses the lengths to which corporations will reach to secure capitalistic gain.

Regardless of whether or not people agreed with the advertisements and campaign, there was an excess of buzz around the situation. Twitter users were quick to mock the death of the well-dressed legume after it was cryptically announced with a photo on the @MrPeanut account on Jan. 22. The initial advertisement explaining Mr. Peanut’s death was posted on the same account about an hour later, and in the weeks that have followed, the story was picked up and put on display by a plethora of media outlets. 

Be it positive or negative, commentary and publicity usually generate sales. I’m unaware of the actual success of the campaign as far as the numbers are concerned, but I do feel that the resulting Twitter-storm and media coverage had to have been — as absolutely ludicrous as it is —  somewhat successful. But is there not another way that they could have presented an advertisement without glorifying the death of their 104-year-old character? I’m not buying it.

The lengths to which the campaign was taken is exhausting as someone viewing this from the outside looking in, as Planters obviously couldn’t just leave Mr. Peanut dead and gone without a successor.  

The true topper to this whole situation is Planters’ follow-up advertisement, which “coincidentally” aired earlier than planned during the Superbowl last weekend in order to avoid coinciding with a planned tribute to Kobe Bryant. The ad depicted the funeral of Mr. Peanut at which the Kool-Aid man’s tears fell upon his final resting place, and — as is the natural order of nature — caused the sprouting of a Baby Nut. It appears that this reincarnation of Mr. Peanut will be the figure to inherit the throne of the Planter’s empire. 

I’m not really sure what absolute visionary of a creative mind threw that scenario together, but you can bet your honey-roasted a– that the company has already launched a site to make Baby Nut merchandise available for preorder!

Be it what you will, but I will remain lightly salted about this irrelevant issue for weeks to come. I simply can’t get behind the use of death for profit and publicity in any sense, be the figure animated or not. Especially when a portion of said profit is to come from the sale of “All Over Baby Nut Crew Socks” sold at $28 a pair on shopbabynut.com.

At the end of the day I sincerely hope that Baby Nut knows I have it out for him. His brand, especially in his fresh youth, makes him a leech of society. And I simply will not tolerate it.

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