Inside M&M’s Absurd Gambit to Turn Danny DeVito Into a Super Bowl-Sized Spokescandy

A tale of moxie and … cannibalism

Danny DeVito stars in M&M’s Super Bowl ad. Courtesy of M&M’s
Headshot of Kristina Monllos

It’s a late day in November and Danny DeVito is waist deep in a chocolate pool—well, he’s not exactly wading in molten chocolate, but a liquid mixture of sorts. This brown soup is meant to resemble a chocolate pool and it will, after some retouching in postproduction. Mars and BBDO are in the midst of filming a 30-second M&M’s spot for the Super Bowl airing on Feb. 4. During the shoot, 713 gallons of said concoction have been sitting uncovered for 12-plus hours on the New York City lot at Paramount Studios in Los Angeles. And yet, DeVito, the consummate professional, plunges right in, moving his limbs as if he’s making snow angels and giving various line readings of “Mmmm, Super Bowl,” for director Wayne McClammy, who wants DeVito to make viewers believe he’s in the most luxurious bath possible.
To be clear, DeVito’s “chocolate” bath isn’t what M&M’s has planned for its Super Bowl ad. Instead, the brand is using this goofy-yet-mesmerizing scene for a 15-second teaser; the big reveal showcases DeVito as the ad’s star. The brand’s strategy this day: Shoot the 30-second spot, a 15-second teaser, followed by another 15-second ad that it will use later in the year and finally, content for social media. The goal, according to Tim Bayne, evp and ecd at BBDO in New York, is to take advantage of the comic actor’s time on set in order to create a multipronged approach to the ad itself. In other words, a promotion of a promotion, inside of a promotion.
It’s a busy day.

In November, BBDO and Mars filmed this 30-second ad starring Danny DeVito on Paramount Studio’s New York lot.
Courtesy of M&M’s/Liz Sotelo

The value in producing three spots in a single day is something that Allison Miazga-Bedrick, brand director for Mars M&M’s, says she learned from her time spearheading the celebrity-filled Snickers campaign. Miazga-Bedrick, who took over the reins at M&M’s last year, previously ran marketing for Twix, Milky Way, Three Musketeers, as well as Snickers. After overseeing 2017’s Snicker’s live ad and 36-hour livestream featuring Adam Driver, Miazga-Bedrick was inspired to tackle M&M’s triple-header. The big take-away from that project, she says, was “let’s do everything in service of the spot.”
“Last year on Snickers, the vision was to be the most-talked about,” she says. “And to be the most-talked about brand on the planet, you have to do a lot of different things, so it was successful in that right.” According to the company, the ad garnered 161 million social media impressions and was featured in more than 1,700 news articles. This year, instead of having various promotions that could be newsworthy in their own right, e.g., the 36-hour livestream, Mars “wanted to come back and have a really awesome 30-second spot and do everything in service of that,” explains Miazga-Bedrick.
There’s a new twist to Adweek’s annual Super Bowl issue—and we’re not just talking about the football (and turf) made of M&M’s. With help from our technology partners at The Glimpse Group, we’ve created Adweek’s first-ever augmented reality cover. Download the app you’ll find there, and enjoy!
Photo: Raquel Beauchamp for Adweek; Styling: Dianna McDougall

This is M&M’s first Super Bowl commercial after sitting out the game for the past three years. “Every year, we talk about which brand [at Mars will go to the Super Bowl] and I think it was just time for M&M’s,” says Miazga-Bedrick. “The brand has a lot of momentum. We’ve launched caramel and so it’s sort of like, let’s ride M&M’s, it’s doing really well now, and it felt like we’re getting to where we want in a relevancy perspective.” In 2017, M&M’s grew 10.2 percent, according to Nielsen. Mars credits M&M’s product innovation, like the new caramel flavor, for the growth.
While M&M’s declined to provide the budget on its Super Bowl campaign, industry estimates put the company’s spend at well over $5 million—the going rate for a 30-second spot on NBC, which is airing the game this year.
At a time when Americans are consuming less chocolate (according to Euromonitor, Americans on average ate 9.5 pounds of chocolate per person in 2015 compared to roughly 12.6 pounds per person in 2006) and are more mindful of their sugar intake, Beth Kimmerle, a noted confectionery expert and author of Candy: The Sweet History, sees M&M’s return to the Super Bowl as a savvy way for Mars to get out in front of consumers on what is also considered a “day of indulging.”

This story first appeared in the Jan. 29, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.