Cheerios Ad Brings Out the Racists

Slate's Culture Blog
May 31 2013 4:49 PM

Cheerios Ad Brings Out the Racists

cheerios ad
The controversial Cheerios ad featuring an interracial family.

YouTube

Despite the uptick in interracial couples on TV, the advertising world, as Ad Age reported last year, has been slow to catch up. A handful of ad campaigns have included such couples, but “more the norm are ads like the ones for eHarmony or Viagra, which seem to go to great lengths to show same-race couples,” as David Morse wrote. Among the exceptions: a 2004 Verizon ad, a white father and Latina mother were featured in a campaign that Slate’s Seth Stevenson described as “more like a sitcom,” successfully avoiding the sentiment of being a gimmick or pandering.

As far as I can tell, that ad didn’t spark much if any controversy. But “Just Checking,” a cute Cheerios ad featuring a little girl, her white mother, and her black father, has not been so fortunate. The ad brought the racists out: From YouTube to Facebook to Reddit, insensitive jokes and racist rants crowded out—at least temporarily—the positive responses to the ad. (Sample quote: “If the dad was stereotypical black, I don't think they would have needed more than 2 actors for the commercial.”)

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The backlash became so outrageous that the commenting system was disabled on the commercial’s YouTube page.

This alone is unsurprising—what is remarkable is that despite the fact that interracial couples and multiracial children continue to see huge increases in the population, advertisement agencies and the companies that hire them aren’t being more aggressive in catering to that demographic. Are they afraid of offending that small group of Americans who may feel adamantly enough about “race-mixing” to boycott their products? That fear would seem incredibly unwarranted. Unfortunately, the dust-up over this Cheerios ad might give some executives pause.

Unless those who are happy to see this sort of thing crowd out the racists. Camille Gibson, a vice president of marketing for Cheerios, told Cord Jefferson of Gawker, “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad.  At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all.”

Aisha Harris is a Slate staff writer.