The definition of the “All-American family” has evolved (and is still evolving) into a much more inclusive, realistic concept than it was in the days of the Cleavers. Many of today’s movies and television shows reflect that evolution by featuring all sorts of families in their storylines, including interracial, single-parent, and same-sex partner families. The sad truth, however, is that advertising is often behind this curve, as brands seem afraid to be seen as taking a controversial stand or making a political statement. This lag time was made evident once again when a recent Cheerios spot featuring an interracial family garnered more attention than seems plausible in this day and age.
In 2013 America, a country led by a president who is himself a product of an interracial marriage, few people would be surprised to see an interracial couple walking down the street or featured in a Hollywood film. But such couples appear so infrequently in advertising that the below Cheerios spot, featuring an average family going about their business on an average morning, generated enough buzz to appear on the front page of Reddit last week, an honor usually reserved for the most shocking of stories.
The Youtube video has been viewed over 1.5 million times, and the comments section got so out of control that Cheerios disabled it. Camille Gibson, the brand’s vice president of marketing, said in a statement: “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families, and we celebrate them all.” And on Monday’s Today show, she added: “The [YouTube] comments that were made were, in our view, not family friendly. And that was really the trigger for us to pull them off. … Ultimately we were trying to portray an American family. And there are lots of multicultural families in America today.”
We’re glad to see Cheerios embracing the situation that so many brands shy away from, but wonder how much longer it will be before seeing the diversity of our country represented in advertising will no longer be shocking, but commonplace, and advertisers will no longer have to justify their failure to remain safely within antiquated and narrow-minded social boundaries .