Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

Cheerios Didn’t Lose Their Head Over Youtube Comments

Last week, everybody from AdWeek to Larry O’Donnell was abuzz about the new Cheerios ad, which features…gasp…a mixed race family. 

I thought they were cool for doing it. Plenty of mixed marriages exist (my parents come to mind), and they’re becoming more common all the time. But Americans aren’t always so good at dealing with reality, and advertisers are generally out to sell product, not to challenge cultural norms. So it’s never really troubled me  that my family situation doesn’t normally show up in TV spots, especially since it has virtually no bearing on most situations portrayed in advertising—mixed families’ cereal eating experience is pretty much the same as anybody else’s.

But Cheerios decided to go there. And I thought it was cool of them. Knowing, as they had to, that America is post-racial in the same way that the Titanic is post-iceberg, they had to foresee some backlash from less-enlightened corners of the internet. And it came, in the form of YouTube comments. The press ate it up, earnestly shaking its collective head at the online badgering that forced Cheerios to disable comments on the video. But before we bemoan our barbaric culture, let’s remember what YouTube comments are, for a moment.

Scroll down beneath any YouTube video that includes non-white people, and you’ll find all sorts of comments better suited to a Klan rally. YouTube comment sections are a bastion of online anonymity that let people release either their socially unacceptable pent up thoughts or, I believe, their teenage delight at using bad words. A YouTube comment section is not, however, a reliable barometer of…well…anything. 

That’s why I’m more impressed that Cheerios rode this thing out long enough for some meaningful (and positive) data to come out. Not that being wishy-washy would’ve looked good for the brand either. But as Michael Jordan famously said regarding a political stand he chose not to take, Republicans buy shoes too. I’m sure bigots eat breakfast. So even taking the obviously more acceptable principled stand is still taking a principled stand, and that deserves some credit.

So thanks, General Mills, Saatchi & Saatchi, and the individuals involved. You’ve given a mixed guy hope that maybe one day the ad world, and America at large, will think of my reality, and that of several million others, as being just as normal and unremarkable as I do.

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