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Mr. Peanut gets a wardrobe makeover -- and a voice

November 10, 2010 |  1:10 pm

Peanut_collage
You have to admit, as advertising mascots go, Mr. Peanut is one darn dapper fellow -- what with his monocle, top hat, cane, white gloves and spats. Hardly the type in need of a wardrobe overhaul.

 So I was surprised when I caught a segment on this morning's TV news.

Although the topic was the fact that -- after 94 years -- Planters' peanut-shilling shell had been given a voice -- and that it just so happened to be the voice of Robert Downey Jr. (OK, that IS nuts, I'll admit it) what I couldn't believe was the tiny little ensemble our familiar little nutty buddy happened to be wearing.

In the holiday-party-themed, animated ad (embedded below for your viewing pleasure) the luxe legume was seriously bringing it -- kitted out in a gray wool, notch lapel three-button suit jacket accented with white piping, gray trousers, a white dress shirt with French cuffs and light green necktie. And Mr. P was rocking a crisply folded triangle of white pocket square to boot.

Could it be that Mr. Peanut was wearing a Thom Browne suit? The style sure seemed spot on -- the shade of gray, the piping, the shrunken silhouette of the short jacket. To get the skinny on the salted one's sartorial switcheroo, I made a couple of calls.

The folks responsible for the updated look are Kris and Alisa Wixom, creative directors at advertising agency Being (in conjunction with Smuggler and Laika House) and Kris Wixom told All The Rage that Mr. Peanut's new threads weren't modeled after any one designer specifically. "It's based on the aesthetic of Savile Row custom tailors -- I wanted him to look like he was in a high-end custom suit."

Kris Wixom said there was some connection to real-world style. "I was inspired by some of the suits at Freemans Sporting Club in New York City," he said. "We wanted a look that felt both classic and modern."

But why re-garb the goober in the first place? For that we turned to Jason Levine, Planters' senior marketing director. "This is all about contemporizing Mr. Peanut. He's one of the best-loved advertising icons in America but we'd found that people didn't really connect with him beyond nostalgia."

That's why depictions of Mr. Peanut 2.0 have ditched the banana-yellow hue of his previous incarnation in favor of the new authentic textured-shell peanut color, and appear more to scale (that would be actual peanut size and not human size). It also explains his new found powers of vocalization. "It's another way to get him off the package and get to know him," Levine said.

(Another way of engaging and contemporizing Mr. Peanut apparently includes giving him a Facebook page --astrological sign: Virgo, location: Suffolk, Va.)

Being's Alisa Wixom gave us the low-down on why Downey was the right choice of voice to crack the nut's 94 years of silence: "He can pull off classic roles like Charlie Chaplin and also be Iron Man," she said. "He's got an everyman quality but he's also got the kind of suaveness that can pull off the top hat and the cane."

Speaking of which, while the Wixoms hinted that while Mr. Peanut's wardrobe could well expand in future ads (depending on the occasion, of course), they said it would only do so in a way that fit Mr. P's new look.

And Planters' senior marketing director answered our most important question before we could even ask it.

"That top hat, cane and monocle keep him true to who he is," Levine said. "Anything he wears and any situation Mr. Peanut is in is going to involve those elements."

 -- Adam Tschorn

Photos: The nattily garbed Planters' Mr. Peanut mascot circa 2004, left, and as he appears in new advertisements unveiled Nov. 9, 2010, right. Credit: Planters.


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