Snickers has been telling the same joke for more than a decade—you’re not yourself when you’re hungry—and to its credit has pretty much been nailing it every time.
What once featured surprising cameos from the likes of Betty White and Joe Pesci, has now reached its logical conclusion with this year’s Super Bowl spot. It’s not about one person acting out of sorts anymore; it’s the entire planet.
Initially it feels as if the brief for this commercial, created by long-time Snickers ad agency BBDO New York, was to recreate Coke’s “Hilltop” ad but, y’know, funnier. We’ve got people of all colors and creeds lamenting the problems facing society today—from partisan politics to social media addiction, from Peter Pan syndrome to the surveillance state—and, as with White and Pesci before them, suggesting what the world really needs is its own Snickers.
The world is out of sorts (so messed up!) / We need to fix it quicker
It’s a lovely sentiment expressed with just enough candy bar humor, right? Except joking about the dire state of the world feels a bit rich coming from a global company with more than $35 billion in yearly sales, one that operates in an industry boasting supply chains riddled with environmental, sustainability, and child-labor issues. We need to fix the world quicker, indeed, except in 2018 Mars, Snickers’s parent company, pushed its target date for switching entirely to sustainably produced cocoa from 2020 to 2025. According to a Washington Post story from late last year, while Mars pays millions of dollars to try and ensure its chocolate doesn’t cause or come from deforestation-ravaged farms in West Africa, it’s still unable to be 100% sure. “The myth over the last 10 years was that certification would solve the problem of deforestation,” Mars’s chief procurement and sustainability officer, Barry Parkin, told the Post. “In most cases, it was a little bit helpful. But it is not solving the core issues or assuring that your cocoa is deforestation-free.”
The joke about the surveillance state is funny—”Alexa, buy me a Snickers”—except when we remember one of the primary reasons that all of our machines are listening to us is to harvest data for brands and advertisers to sell us more, um, candy bars.
Of course, this is all just a Super Bowl ad joke, and why can’t I just eat some nachos and have a laugh? It’s all well and good until the very companies contributing to the world’s ills start laughing at the world’s ills.
At best, it feels tone-deaf. At worst, a middle finger.
Why use the most expensive piece of TV ad real estate to remind us of your role in any of this in the first place? Especially when Snickers had the perfect opportunity to run an awesome spot that’s funny, touts recycling, and ties directly into one of the Super Bowl teams? Then donate what they would’ve spent on a new production to those very efforts to clean up cocoa before 2025.
Instead we get a giant Snickers in a giant hole in the ground. On the plus side, they probably didn’t dig it in an Ivory Coast forest.