Ad Space: The Horrifying Existence of M&Ms

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
M&M chocolate candies

The Promotions:

The Pitch:
Candy so good … it’s worth killing for!

Food mascots come in a few basic types.

There’s the hype artist type, who exists solely to talk about how great the food is and offer it up to various people. Think Tony the Tiger or Ronald McDonald.

There’s the chef type, who is presented as being the creator of the food, and who will be shown going to great lengths to make it as delicious as possible. For this, you’ve got Colonel Sanders and the Keebler Elves.

There’s the food addict type, who is obsessed with consuming this particular foodstuff and will do anything to get, whether by fair means or foul. These would be your Hamburglars and Trix Rabbits.

Then there’s the type who’s presented as the food itself, brought to life so it can tell you how delicious it is. A concept that’s always come packaged with disturbing implications, because this living, sentient being is trying to convince you, the viewer, to eat and presumably kill them. Most mascots of this type just ignore the implications, trusting that most people aren’t going to put serious thought into the worldbuilding and character motivations of a thirty second ad spot.

Not so M&Ms. They have made an art form out of creating these lovable cartoon personalities for their candies, and depicting how horrifying it must be for them to live in a society that hungers for their flesh. Some of their ads even up the creepy factor by adding sexual undertones to humanity’s chocolate cravings, making their efforts to corner and devour the terrified M&Ms feel even wronger.

And people love these ads! Apparently equating casual snacking habits to the brutal murder of an intelligent being is exactly what customers want!

It works, I feel, because it operates on Looney Tunes logic. We may see the talking M&Ms face imminent consumption, but come the next commercial, they’re alive and unscathed. Like Daffy Duck getting his bill shot off, the violence may theoretically be serious, but its impermanence gives us license to laugh at it. Add in the M&Ms reactions being either complete nonchalance or over-the-top panic, with little to no middle ground, and we’re not asked to empathize with them too terribly much.

Still, it’s easy to imagine an alien learning about Earth culture, and being absolutely flabbergasted when they got to these commercials, wondering what sort of sick degenerates populate this planet.

I won’t tell ‘em if you won’t.