General Mills is in the center of social media firestorm over a Cheerios ad it posted to its YouTube channel. The ad, which features a mixed-race family, ignited a racist backlash, forcing the brand to disable comments on the video due to the nature of the responses.
Posted late last week, the ad, titled "Just Checking" features a caucasian mother, an African-American father and a mixed-race daughter. The spot touts the ongoing Heart Healthy campaign and remains true to the brand's ethos of family and old-fashioned Americana. However, the ad, which has over 2 million views on YouTube, garnered a number of racist remarks.
Despite the negative reaction to the ad, General Mills is standing behind its efforts. "We are a family brand and not all of the comments were family-friendly," Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios told USA Today. "There are many kinds of families, and Cheerios celebrates them all.”
The company is being applauded for standing by the ad. "The traditional approach depicting the old 'Leave it to Beaver' family, while offending no one, is not very realistic,'' Allen Adamson, managing director of Landor Associates told CBS News. "Advertisers for many years always took the safe route, which was to try to ruffle no feathers, and in doing so became less and less authentic and real. To succeed today, big brands like Cheerios need to be in touch with what's authentic and true about American families."
Charles Malik Whitfield, who played the dad in the ad, commented, "Let's not pretend racism doesn't exist. Let's not pretend that we've come so far. Let's be conscious of and appreciate the noise, and the negativity, because there's so much work to be done."
Despite the pocket of negativty, according to Ace Metrix, the ad tested the highest of six new Cheerios ads this year and garnered attention and likeability scores of 9 percent and 11 percent, according to Ace Metrix, scores which put the ad "above the current 90-day norm for cereals."