By Tiffany Davis
By now, you’ve probably seen the media flurry of articles, blog posts, videos, and the like posted in response to the Cheerios advertisement featuring a biracial daughter and her parents. Everyone from the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Today News, The New York Times, Black Enterprise, The Root, Jezebel, and more devoted space and time to addressing the backlash AND support this commercial generated. Though curly (natural) hair was only mentioned briefly in a few sources, I see an interesting parallel that I’ll get into later. But first, I’m going to quickly break down the who, what, and why of this Cheerios commercial controversy.
Who did it: Saatchi & Saatchi in New York created this spot for General Mills. It’s consistent with Cheerio’s brand image, and in line with their “Heart Healthy” campaign. It features an interracial family, made up of a black father, white mother, and biracial daughter.
Random fact: This commercial tested well with audiences before airing, earning attention and likeability scores of 9 percent and 11 percent (according to Ace Metrix). My sources (*cough, Google) tell me this is a big deal in the world of advertising. If nothing else, it’s “above the current 90-day norm for cereals“. But it doesn’t stop there. It beat out 5 other Cheerios spots produced this year!!! Picture me making it rain with Cheerios at my desk.
What happened: The commercial airs on TV and is released on YouTube. That’s when shit really got real.
Racists, bigots, internet gangstas, you name it, went off in the comments section for the YouTube video! Spewing crap about the interracial family with a black father, white mother, and biracial daughter. Those damn internet gangstas. I won’t repeat the racist comments here. I’d tell you go to YouTube and read the comments, but they’ve been disabled. According to the General Mills Vice President for Marketing Camille Gibson, “the comments that were made in our view were not family-friendly, and that was really the trigger for us, you know, to pull them off”.
But there was also support and appreciation for the commercial.
Random observation: Besides generating both positive and negative feedback, something else happened because of this Cheerios commercial. People around the Internet were running off at the mouth about how this commercial shows that we live in a post-racial society. Not an original argument, but apparently this is more proof that racism no longer exists! And hey, Barack Obama is our president (he was even elected twice). Plus, he’s bi-racial! Double-win.
Why is this a big deal: Wondering why this commercial sparked such a hailstorm? That’s because some people are still f—ing racist! And they don’t like a black man, white woman, and their biracial offspring selling them Cheerios. Yeah, they’re good for your heart but who gives a freak about their health when a light-skinned little girl with curly hair, a black daddy, and white mommy are in up in the mix? I picture scores of bigots yelling “Get off my tv screen and computer!”
Random thought: Seriously. I don’t want to trivialize this situation. It’s messed up. But come on, are you really surprised? I’m not. Yes, the percentage of interracial marriage continues to rise. It increased 28 percent between 2000 and 2010. But in reality, U.S. Census data shows that these marriages only represented 10 percent of all marriages in the United States in 2010. However, using the logic of the Today’s Show Donny Deutsch, 10 percent of all commercials should feature interracial couples of families. “Advertisers have really one objective – to make money for their shareholders,’’ Deutsch said. “So if in reality there is one percent of this country that are interracial couples, that’s probably what the representation should be. This is a smart way to sell product and that’s why (Cheerios is) doing it. Your responsibility is to do what’s right for your brand, and for Cheerios this is right”. Clearly the man is wrong about the numbers, but he makes an interesting point. Should marketing reflect the population?
I won’t go so far as to say that this one commercial helped normalize mixed-race families or shows that Cheerios is colorblind, but I will say it’s a step in the right direction. I liken it to more and more brands using models and actresses with natural hair in their commercials and advertisements. More and more women are going natural. Brands are starting to understand that there is a natural movement happening, and this is reflected in some of their marketing. Take some time out and browse the commercials and advertisements categories on this site. You’ll see.