June 13, 2013

The recent controversy over the Cheerios mixed-race family commercial “Just Checking” shows the power of advertising to be good, bad and ugly. Millions of people thought the commercial was cute and General Mills placed it on You Tube, but ugliness and/or hatred under the You Tube comment section got so out of control that Cheerios disabled it.

The flip side of this bad news is from May 28 (when the spot launched) to June 5, cross-Web brand exposure for Cheerios was up 77% compared to the week before according to Kontera, which is an ad network that provides online ads and research. So seemingly the spot was good for cereal marketing.

But the ugly truth is that most advertising needs to stay safely within social boundaries, even if we live in a country led by a president who is himself a product of an interracial marriage. While the top-rated TV show Modern Family shows that today’s “TV family” is very different from the time of Ozzie and Harriet, interracial, single-parent, and same-sex partner families are not necessarily accepted in every home.

Product Warning: If you take risks in advertising you can create major brand awareness and social media buzz, but it may come with the ugliness that still prevails in much of our country.

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