Mr. Peanut speaks in new ad campaign -- and he's pretty funny

Mr. Peanut launches new ad campaign, Mr. Peanut speaks Mr. Peanut, the iconic mascot of Planters peanuts, is ending 94 years of silence in a new commercial. Given stop-action life (and the voice of Robert Downey Jr.), Mr. Peanut hosts a memorable Christmas party in one ad and plays The Christmas Song on the rims of glasses in a companion follow up. And, in a nutshell, the new ad campaign is pretty funny.

The verbally-enhanced Mr. Peanut -- still a dandy with monocle, top hat and cane -- has apparently hit the gym in order to fill out his new jacket and pants (formal leggings maybe?). He's a fit Mr. Peanut for the post-recession rat race, ready to have a good time but keeping it simple (and more affordable) with the appetizers.

Planters unveiled the two 30-second spots Monday night at a loft in SoHo. The commercials get a run on Facebook today (Nov. 9) before premiering during CBS's Criminal Minds on Wednesday.

Apparently, we've all been waiting for this extreme makeover. "He's such a beloved American icon, but people weren't connecting with him anymore," Jason Levine, Planters' senior director of marketing, told me.

The TV ads reassert the brand, but don't specifically mention any products. (Thumbs up for the Five Alarm Chili nuts, by the way).

The first and most memorable spot, My Remarkable Holiday Party, begins with Mr. Peanut throwing a bash attended by crickets, a squirrel, a turtle and other creatures. Mr. Peanut declares that the best way to throw a splendid soiree is to "serve classy snacks and be a gracious host, no matter who shows up." Cue the nutcracker, who enters apologizing for an earlier incident. Mr. Peanut offers a "forgive and forget" as he massages his bandaged cracked shell of a skull. He then hurls his cane at the nutcracker's open mouth to fend off another attack. "I don't think so," Mr. Peanut chirps.

The second ad is more of a holiday card, in which Mr. Peanut simply plays Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire on goblets, climaxed by a triangle ting from new mini-me sidekick Benson.

Planters and parent Kraft are shelling out $35 million for the campaign. The Super Bowl is likely out, but Levine said the nut maker is planning more ads for college basketball's Final Four tournament. We've seen Mr. Peanut play hoops before in commercials, but imagine him being able to talk trash, too.

My one minor beef with the campaign so far: Planters overplays the lifestyle appeal. Its "naturally remarkable" theme is about Mr. Peanut encouraging folks to lead remarkable lives, Levine said. That kind of conceptualizing is common on Madison Avenue, but it pushes my cynic-meter needle into the red.

We're talking nuts. I munch them with beer when I watch football. They're better for me than potato chips. I can't accept that something I can buy at a 7-Eleven will make me a more remarkable person. But I do like to laugh at commercials while I eat nuts and these new ads help me to do both.
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