The marketers of Cheerios cereal appear to be standing behind a commercial that has become the focus of hate talk.
USA Today reports that the new ad featuring a mixed-race family had its comments section disabled on YouTube after sparking an online outcry. The clip has been viewed more than 1.7 million times in its few days on YouTube.
“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 girl,” USA Today reports. “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 healthier.”
In an emailed comment, Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, said: "We are a family brand and not all of the comments were family-friendly."
The report adds: “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.”
A number of marketing experts are praising the spot, the piece notes. Barbara Lippert, media and pop culture columnist for MediaPost.com, said of the situation: "A progressive-looking commercial collides with the ugliness of the Internet." She added: "They can’t bow to this incredible ugliness and underbelly of hatred. If the father had not been black, it would have been just another spot."
Ken Smikle, president of Target Market News, which tracks African-American marketing, says the commercial is getting attention because Cheerios is such a mainstream brand. “We think of Cheerios as a great American icon," he said. "There are going to be people who feel that their image of what’s American is now being challenged by these iconic brands."
Here’s the commercial: