Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy couldn’t have foreseen that E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial would be such a monumental success. Neither could anyone else, including companies looking for product placement. After M&M’S refused to let their product be featured in the film, Reese’s agreed.
This was a terrible decision by M&M’S. Now, looking back at that time in retrospect, the candy giants regrets its choice. On the other hand, Hershey’s (the makers of Reese’s Pieces) say it was a big decision, which ultimately proved fruitful and was instrumental in making their product famous.
Bad Business Decision
In the first script, Elliot lured E.T. with candy. The producers of the movie were on the lookout for the perfect treat for the gig, so they turned to Mars (oh, the irony), the makers of M&M’S. But for some reason, Mars refused. One report said that it’s because they didn’t want “their candy to be associated with aliens.” (Maybe they shouldn’t have named the company Mars.)
Bad move. In their search for another similar candy for the film, the producers decided to try Hershey’s newest peanut butter and chocolate treat. Barely anyone had ever heard of Reese’s Pieces. This time, the production didn’t ask for permission first. They went ahead, and then they approached Hershey’s with the end result.
At first, the management hesitated. But after some consideration, they signed the deal. As it turned out, E.T. was a “marketing bonanza.” The film would go on to gross at $793 million at the box office and assume its place in the halls of Hollywood’s best. Almost overnight, Hershey’s stock rose astronomically. Reese’s Pieces was on the map and would soon be a staple of everyone’s snack drawer.
We don’t know how much money, prestige, and publicity Mars lost out on by refusing to allow M&M’S to be in E.T., but it’s certainly a lot. It’s true that as of today, both companies, Mars and Hershey’s are doing well – Mars’s bad decision was not a lethal blow, but it was one heck of missed opportunity.