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Why A&W puts pants on its cartoon bear after M&M's gaffe

A&W Restaurants didn't shy away from the online uproar over M&M's decision to put its cartoon "spokescandies" on hiatus. 
Mars, which owns M&M's, publicly acknowledged this week that "even a candy's shoes can be polarizing" after drawing criticism and even ridicule for changing the animated candies' appearance, including exchanging the green M&M's go-go boots for sneakers. 
Not to be upstaged by gang of candy-coated chocolates, A&W tweeted on Tuesday that it had decided to clothe its previously pant-less bear character — dubbed "Rooty the Great Root Bear" — in denim jeans because "even a mascot's lack of pants can be polarizing." The tweet has since been viewed more than 4 million times and received 46,000 likes.
A message from A&W.
In fact, Rooty is not undergoing a wardrobe change. The tweet was all in fun, not to mention a chance for a little tongue-in-cheek marketing, A&W told CBS MoneyWatch. "Is now a good time to mention that this is a joke," the company tweeted on Wednesday.
To be sure, many Twitter users who commented on Rooty's new look recognized it as a playful jab, with one social media user quipping that the mascot's jeans are a "paw-larizing" subject. But some people seemed genuinely put off. "Does Wokeness have no boundaries," another tweeted.
"Our social media post yesterday was purely in jest, intended to be playful banter with the M&M's team," A&W spokesperson Liz Bazner said. "We have no plans to actually change our mascot's current outfit and had no idea that we would strike a nerve with such a large audience."
A&W is a privately held fast-food chain famous for its root beer floats. The company has roughly 600 locations across the U.S., about 100 of which are connected to gas stations or convenience stores. Rooty has been the chain's mascot since 1963. 
Bazner conceded that A&W was hoping to ride M&M's coattails for some social media attention. But the company's Twitter account has been flooded with private messages from people who oppose putting pants on Rooty, she said. 
"We love Rooty just the way he is," Bazner said. "It would also be really expensive to add jeans to all of our digital and physical assets."
Khristopher J. Brooks is a reporter for CBS MoneyWatch covering business, consumer and financial stories that range from economic inequality and housing issues to bankruptcies and the business of sports.