The advertising industry has long trailed the rest of the media when it comes to showcasing racial diversity.
Cheerios is seeking to do its part in changing that with a major splash on Sunday, featuring an interracial family in the cereal's first-ever Super Bowl ad. The same family was depicted in a commercial last May, sparking a vicious racist backlash, as well as calls of support for the cereal maker.
The original ad featured a biracial little girl who asks her white mother about the heart-health of Cheerios. Inspired by what she hears, the girl runs to her black father, who is napping on the couch, and pours the cereal over his chest. The ad was undeniably sweet, although the racial backlash was bitter and prompted General Mills to disable the commenting function for the ad on YouTube.
While comments on the commercial remain disabled, the spot has earned almost 75,000 “likes,” compared with only about 3,000 “dislikes.”
Given the controversy, why bring back the family for the biggest advertising event of the year?
“We fell in love with this family,” Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios told CBS MoneyWatch. “We thought the big game provided an opportunity to tell a story about family love.”
The brand had considered several other spots for its Super Bowl foray, but the performance by the little girl in the ad “was so strong, and that was really why we chose it," she added.
The new spot, called “Gracie,” is already on YouTube and is garnering positive buzz on Twitter, with one commenter writing, “Cheerios nails it,” and another noting, “Good move.”
The new commercial is as adorable as the first, with Gracie learning that she’ll soon have a baby brother. She uses the moment to wrangle a puppy out her parents.
The fact that some Super Bowl viewers will be familiar with the family may give the cereal a running start in what’s often called the “Super Bowl of advertising.” It’s one of the few venues where viewers tune in to watch the commercials as much as the game, raising the stakes for advertisers.
On top of that, a Super Bowl commercial is a massive investment, with marketers paying a record $4 million for 30 seconds of air time.
While Cheerios’ Gibson notes that the company is seeking to celebrate all types of American families, the stark truth is that the advertising industry lags in showing interracial families. That means commercials are failing to reflect the changing face of American families, given that interracial and inter-ethnic, opposite-sex couple households jumped by 28% from 2000 to 2010, according to the Census Bureau.
By breaking the advertising mold, Cheerios might just hit an advertising home run on Super Bowl Sunday.