What in the World—Week of January 16

Tucker Carlson is mad at M&M’s again
Mars is releasing special all-female packs of its iconic M&M’s to help mark International Women’s Day, March 8. The packs will feature only the three female M&M “spokescandies,” Green, Purple and Brown, and they will appear upside down on the pack to symbolically represent how women are “flipping the status quo.” Mars will donate $1 from each pack sold (up to $800,000) to groups that empower women. “The M&M’S brand is on a mission to use the power of fun to create purposeful connections, as we work to create a world where everyone feels they belong,” said Gabrielle Wesley, CMO, Mars Wrigley North America, in a release. “Women all over the world are flipping how they define success and happiness while challenging the status quo, so we’re thrilled to be able to recognize and celebrate them.” Unsurprisingly, the campaign provoked Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who a year ago ranted about Mars making the woman candies less sexy. “Woke M&Ms have returned,” he said last week, before claiming that Green M&M is now a lesbian and Purple M&M is obese.

Mattel makes Barbie for toddlers
Mattel is introducing a new Barbie specially designed for kids three and under. The doll, which will retail for $20 when it goes on sale in the U.S. later this month, is bigger (13.5 inches tall versus the usual 11.5 inches) has a softer body, comes in four skin tones, and has a closed hand, making it easier for young children to change her clothes. Despite launching in 1959, Barbie remains a top-selling global toy property, the No. 1 fashion doll in the world, and a source of fascination—including a much-hyped real action movie coming later this year. “Mattel is successfully filling a void for this age group. They’ve found a way to bring the Barbie fashion doll to an even younger consumer,” toy industry expert Jim Silver told CNN. “There’s very little out there in the toy market for preschoolers in dolls that isn’t a baby doll… So this is a great opportunity for Mattel to introduce Barbie even earlier to kids.” Mattel is also launching the doll with an animated YouTube special titled My First Barbie: Happy DreamDay. It will reportedly include preschool themes of “friendship and family, with simplified plots, original music and relevant life lessons.”

Meta tightens teen marketing rules
As part of ongoing efforts to make Facebook and Instagram more “age-appropriate for teens,” Meta announced last week that, starting in February, advertisers will not be able to target teens based on gender, or on what posts and pages the teen users interact with on Facebook and Instagram. “We recognize that teens aren’t necessarily as equipped as adults to make decisions about how their online data is used for advertising, particularly when it comes to showing them products available to purchase,” said Facebook in a blog post. Going forward, advertisers will only be able to use age and location for their targeting, and is giving teen users more say over the kinds of ads they see while on Meta apps. But Irene Ly, policy counsel at Common Sense Media, told The Wall St. Journal that while the changes were positive, Meta should still do more to limit how much data it collects from teen users.  “We have long said that advertisers should not target kids and teens with ads, and that kids and teens should be able to explore the internet without worrying about their online activity being tracked at every move,” she said.

A Jumbo idea to fight loneliness
Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo is rolling out 200 special slow checkout lanes across the Netherlands for customers who are feeling lonely and would like to talk to the cashier. It’s also introducing new “chat corners” for those looking for a little conversation over a cup of coffee. Jumbo first tested the slow lanes, or Kletskassa, during a government-led initiative to fight loneliness in the country—according to Statistics Netherlands, 1.3 million people in the country are 75 or older, and 33% report feeling at least moderately lonely. Their popularity led Jumbos to expand the program. “As a family business and supermarket chain we have a central role in society. Our shops are a meeting place and that means we can do something to combat loneliness. The Kletskassa is just one of the things we can do,” said Jumbo CCO Colette Cloosterman-Van Eerd. “We are proud our staff want to work the chat checkout. They really want to help people and make contact with them. It’s a small gesture but it’s a valuable one, particularly in a world that is becoming more digital and faster.”

Like menthol, but not menthol
Tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds is facing criticism in California for new products and marketing that come after the state’s new ban on menthol cigarettes. Anti-smoking experts say the company is trying to get around the ban by introducing products with new cooling agents, and marketing targeting menthol smokers with claims like “new fresh taste, same satisfaction.” California’s law prohibits flavours, odours and tastes in tobacco products, reports The New York Times. The new marketing is “outrageous,” Robert Jackler, a professor at Stanford Medicine, told the Times. “They’re saying, ‘This is our menthol replacement. And by the way — wink, wink — it is not really menthol.’” Pamela Ling, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California San Francisco, said it’s clear what R.J. Reynolds is trying to do. “If you squint at the ads, you’re going to see this as a flavorful product, whether it says it or not,” Dr. Ling said. “The colours, the packaging, the associations that your brain makes with the look and feel—that overrides the text that says this is not menthol.” Canada has banned menthol cigarettes for more than five years, and a University of Waterloo study found the ban led to a “significant increase” in the number of smokers who quit.

David Brown