Betty White death: Snickers commercial introduced star to new generation

Betty White’s combination of sweetness and edginess produced a bevy of memorable characters during her long movie and television career, but a new generation of fans fell in love with her in 2010 during the Super Bowl.

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White, who died Friday at 99, played the acerbic, man-crazy Sue Ann Nivens in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” during the 1970s and the sweet but quirky Rose Nylund in “The Golden Girls” during the 1980s.

But it was her snarky, on-the-money performance in an advertisement for Snickers that rocketed her back to stardom.

In a commercial for the candy bar, White impersonated an energy-sapped guy being tackled during a backlot football game.

“Mike, you’re playing like Betty White out there,” one of his friends complains. White, flat on the ground and covered in mud, fired back, “That’s not what your girlfriend said!”

“She perfectly channeled the tone and mannerisms of an out-of-sorts dude on a football field, in addition to spending a long time in some pretty uncomfortable positions in order to make the effects work,” Gianfranco Arena and Peter Kain of the BBDO advertising agency told Adweek in 2019.

The ad won the Ad Meter and led to a rejuvenation of the Snickers brand and its slogan, “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry.”

It was old hat for White.

>> Betty White dies at 99

“Well, I’ve been in this business for 63 years,” White told Adweek in 2012. “When you have a career that long, you end up doing a little bit of everything. So yes, I’ve done commercials over time.”

After Snickers came commercial spots with Pepsi and Doritos, where she also hosted a giveaway where fans could create their own commercials for a chance at a cash prize.

“Just like me, creating a commercial that is played during the Super Bowl could be a life-changer,” White told ESPN.

The Snickers video went viral immediately and sparked a Facebook campaign called “Betty White to Host ‘SNL’ (please?)!” according to The Associated Press. More than 500,000 fans got involved and led to a much-watched episode of the show on Mother’s Day weekend in 2010.

>> Betty White death: World reacts

She became the oldest person -- at 88 -- to host the late-night comedy show, and more than 12 million viewers tuned in, USA Today reported. The appearance led to her seventh and final Emmy Award, the AP reported.

A month later, cable’s TV Land premiered “Hot In Cleveland,” which starred Valerie Bertinelli, Jane Leeves and Wendie Malick as three past-their-prime show-business veterans who move to Cleveland to escape the youth obsession of Hollywood. They move into a home being looked after by an elderly Polish widow -- Elka Ostrovsky, played by White, who became an immediate hit.

White was voted the Entertainer of the Year by members of The Associated Press.

“It’s ridiculous,” White said of the honor. “They haven’t caught on to me, and I hope they never do.”

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