Cheerios not pulling spot featuring
interracial family after racist comments online
(June 3, 2013) A sweet, mixed-race, Cheerios TV spot has become an
unlikely hot button for racist, social media response.
Cheerios -- a consumer brand perhaps least-likely to be embroiled in a
racially tinged controversy -- has found itself in just that.
Social media blow-back has been fierce, nasty and unusually racist after
the top-selling, General Mills cereal brand last week began airing --
and then posted online -- a commercial featuring a sweet, mixed-race
In the ad, she is seeking nutritional advice from her white mother and
black father. The spot ends with her pouring a bunch of Cheerios on the
chest of her sleeping father -- believing it will make his heart
Even in an era when the nation's African-American president is in his
second term in office and with minorities soon to become a majority
population, much of the social media response to the mixed-race ad has
been poisonous, leaving some wondering what kind of reality such
Internet response actually reflects.
The YouTube comments section for the ad, which had been viewed more than
1.7 million times as of mid-day Monday, was disabled late last week. "We
are a family brand and not all of the comments were family-friendly,"
says Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, in an
Perhaps the real issue it that it's no longer just edgy brands trying to
portray the real American consumer, says Ken Smikle, president of Target
Market News, a firm that monitors African-American marketing. "We think
of Cheerios as a great American icon," he says. "There are going to be
people who feel that their image of what's American is now being
challenged by these iconic brands."
Call it new reality vs. old prejudices.
"A progressive-looking commercial collides with the ugliness of the
Internet," says Barbara Lippert, media and pop culture columnist at
Click here to
see Cheerios spot
General Mills is standing by the spot and has no plans to stop airing it
or to take it down from its YouTube channel. "There are many kinds of
families, and Cheerios celebrates them all," says Gibson. Despite some
serious, negative response online, "it's been a very positive response
overall," she says.
Marketing experts are applauding General Mills -- which first introduced
the brand in 1941 as "Cheerioats, " and in 1945, changed the name to
"They can't bow to this incredible ugliness and underbelly of hatred,"
says Lippert. "If the father had not been black, it would have been just
General Mills, meanwhile, is not bending. Asked how this might affect
casting for future Cheerios commercials, Gibson replied, "I don't think
Go to Target Market News homepage
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