Bi-Racial Relationships – Are They Still a Problem? [POLL/VIDEO]
Some time ago, General Mills, the makers of Cheerios, decided to feature a bi-racial couple in their commercial.
The spot features a bi-racial child approaching her white mother asking about the heart-healthy benefits of Cheerios as it relates to her African American dad, who’s sleeping on the couch, only to wake up and find he’s coated in Cheerios.
So, to test market the commercial, General Mills put it up on Youtube. Surprise, surprise, the commercial didn’t go over well with many of the commenters.
But then again, since a good many commenters on message boards are comprised of the unwashed masses, you have to wonder if it’s worthwhile to take them seriously. General Mills did, and for a time had disabled the comments section of the video.
So it leads me to wonder if we still, as a society, have a problem with bi-racial families, and if you’re in a relationship with someone other than your own race, how’s that going over with family and friends?
This week, General Mills is standing by the fictitious family, which reflects a black-white racial mix uncommon in commercials today, especially in ads on TV, at a time when interracial and interethnic couples are on the rise in real life, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.
Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, said it's the first time the ad campaign that focuses on family moments has featured an interracial couple, with General Mills Inc. casting the actors to reflect the changing U.S. population.
As a large company, General Mills is used to getting some degree of negative feedback and wasn't surprised by the comments on YouTube, she said, but it was the first time the company requested the site turn the comments section off because of the vitriol.
Another site, Reddit, filtered out negative comments on a thread started with a comment in support of the ad. The site left Cheerios defenders' remarks online.
The national ad will continue running as scheduled for several more months and Cheerios isn't planning any changes, Gibson said. She declined to say whether the campaign would feature interracial ads going forward.
Overall, Gibson said, the feedback has been overwhelmingly supportive: "Consumers are actually responding very positively to the ad."
With millions of ad dollars at stake, how seriously do big companies like Cheerios take racist backlashes? Very, said Allen Adamson, managing director of the branding firm Landor Associates, but caving to critics is just as dangerous to a company as large as Cheerios.
"Advertisers for many years always took the safe route, which was to try to ruffle no feathers and in doing so became less and less authentic and real," he said. "To succeed today, big brands like Cheerios need to be in touch with what's authentic and true about American families."
Those families include married couples of different races and ethnicities who grew by 28 percent in the decade between 2000 and 2010, from 7 percent to 10 percent, Census data shows.
"The traditional approach depicting the old `Leave it to Beaver' family, while offending no one, is not very realistic," Adamson said.
Cheerios is not the first brand to show a black and white couple with a biracial child. A TV commercial for Blockbuster recently featured a white mom, black dad and biracial son enjoying a rental on the couch. As far back as 2009, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and its "spread a little joy" campaign had a black man and white woman (no wedding bands) enjoying a bagel breakfast in bed.
In another along those lines, a black woman is shown kissing a white man as the two stir a bit of Philadelphia Cream Cheese into a pasta sauce and kiss.
Again, I’m not surprised by the reaction on Youtube. Generally those who comment tend to experience something I refer to as “keyboard rage”, where they see something they don’t like, and for whatever reason feel the need to comment without thinking before hitting “enter.”
But it does raise the larger issue of whether we still have an issue with bi-racial couples and race in general here in the year of Our Lord 2013.
After all, our President is bi-racial.