General Mills Will Introduce Gluten-Free Cheerios on the Emmys With This Very Sweet Ad

The product's story, from R&D to marketing

In early July, Cheerios started shipping gluten-free versions of five products. Now, the cereal brand has released an emotionally rich new ad from Saatchi & Saatchi, telling the story of how that change came about.

The 60-second spot—which will get its first TV airing during Sunday's Emmy Awards—features Phil Zietlow, a 50-year veteran of the research and development team at General Mills. Some time ago he discovered that his daughter-in-law, Joyce, can't eat gluten.

Zietlow goes on to explain how he found a way to separate the naturally gluten-free oats that make up Cheerios from glutinous grains that get mixed into the brand's supply.

That sounds like a simple enough sifting task, but in reality it's a substantial, complex feat, given the volume of the brand's business and the scope of its suppliers (a process GM explains in more detail here). With $994 million in 2014 sales, Cheerios is the best-selling cereal brand in the U.S. 

Although the ad makes it clear that Joyce suffers from celiac disease, it frames her reaction in broader terms—"She feels pretty darn sick" if she eats gluten, says Zietlow—which opens the message to a larger market of gluten-free consumers.

And General Mills will need them. The strategy also marks a way to fight sagging sales—notably, going gluten-free worked wonders for Cheerios sister-brand Chex.

Client: General Mills (Cheerios)
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi
Chief Creative Officer: Jay Benjamin
EVP, Executive Creative Director: Peter Smith
Creative Director: Johnnie Ingram
Executive Producer: Dani Stoller

Production Company: Aero Films
Director: Peter Smith
Executive Producer: Sara Eolin
Line Producer: Sara Farrand
Edit House: Final Cut
Editor: JD Smyth
Producer: Amy Lazarus
Assistant Editor: Sarah Laites
DP: Luke Geissbuhler               
Music Company: Nylon
Music Producer: Eric Korte

Colorist: Tom Poole
Audio Engineer: Mike Marinelli