John Cena Is Not an Elephant, but Now He’s Playing One on TV for Wonderful Pistachios

Voices 'Ernie' in new campaign

Hey, that elephant sounds awfully familiar!

WWE superstar and commercial pitchman extraordinaire John Cena, named to Adweek's Creative 100 this year, voices Ernie, an animated mascot debuting today in a new campaign for Wonderful Pistachios.

Now, elephants are famed for their peanut propensity, but this particular pachyderm prefers pistachios to other, presumably less-healthy snacks. Dude can't even be swayed by a vendor at a baseball game:

Cena was tapped for the voice work after Lynda Resnick, co-owner of The Wonderful Co., saw him on the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Colbert himself hawked the product a few years back, memorably cracking wise for the brand on the Super Bowl.

Ultimately, Ernie will trumpet Wonderful's praises in 10 spots airing on major TV platforms like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. As long as he doesn't get stuck in an elevator, that is:

Yeah, nothing says "healthy snack choice" like a pitch beast with saggy gray skin and a ton of junk in the truck.

Cena watched rough cuts of the ads featuring a human Ernie stand-in while recording his lines, and "a photo rendering of Ernie was in the recording booth with John, so he could draw inspiration from the character," says Michael Perdigao, president of the client's in-house Wonderful Agency, which created the campaign. "He was riffing in the studio and had a lot of fun ad-libbing. In fact, a few of his ad-libs ended up in some of the spots."

Although he isn't identified onscreen, "we believe that many people will recognize Cena's voice," Perdigao says. "Even if consumers don't make the connection, that's OK. John brought Ernie to life, and we could not be more pleased with his performance."

But wait, there's more. (As if Elephant Cena wasn't a mammoth enough development.) Star NFL cornerback Richard Sherman will join Ernie in a couple of spots that break next month, and also star in online videos focusing on nutrition.

Sherman will appear as himself, which is kind of a shame, because a turn as Surly Seahawk would've been pretty sweet.


Client: Wonderful Pistachios

Agency: Wonderful Agency (in-house)

President: Michael Perdigao

Chief Creative Officer: Steve Krauss

Creative Director, Copywriter: Shawn Preston

Associate Creative Directors, Copywriters: Alan Snider, Shawn Gauthier

Associate Creative Director, Art Director: Dave Hermanas

Senior Art Director: Colin Jahn

Art Director: Alex Harman

Copywriter: Jason Savage

Head of Broadcast Production: Anne Kurtzman

Digital Producer: Matthew Conrad

Production Company: Hungry Man

Executive Producer: Mino Jarjoura

Executive Producer, Director of Sales: Dan Duffy

Producer: Dave Bernstein

Editorial: Rock Paper Scissors

Editor: Christjan Jordan

Assistant Editor: Pieter Viljoen

Executive Producer: Helena Lee

Producer: Dani DuHadway

Visual Effects: MPC

Creative Director, Visual Effects Supervisor: Paul O'Shea

Executive Producer: Karen Anderson

Senior Producer: Jamie Loudon

Computer Graphics Supervisor: Ryan McDougal

Visual Effects Supervisor: Benji Davidson

Colorist: Ricky Gausis

Music, Sound Design: Beacon Street Studios

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@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.