By Ashia Gallo, Editorial Intern
The controversy surrounding a new Cheerios commercial has been an amazing conversation-starter about the use of contemporary race relations in major mass media marketing.
Cheerios recently posted a new commercial on YouTube.com (posted above) called “Just Checking.” A bronze-haired little girl approaches her white mother at the kitchen table and innocently asks, “Dad told me that Cheerios is good for your heart; it that true?”
The mother affirms, explaining to the little girl that the whole grains Cheerios contain help with cholesterol.
The next shot shows a black father waking up on the couch with Cheerios piled up on his chest over his heart, which we can only assume were placed there by his young daughter in the previous shot.
The commercial is innocent, simple and very charming. In fact, I saw the commercial for the first time at the gym two weeks ago and chuckled at it. Never once in my four times viewing this commercial on television did I even notice the race of either the mother or the father. I noticed how cute the little girl was, but her race did not attribute to that cuteness.
Last week, YouTube was forced to block comments on the commercial because of the influx of racist, hateful comments being posted below the video. This action is what really prompted people to pay attention and thus, controversy ensued.
Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, stated the motive of General Mills Inc. was to “reflect an American family.” In a sense, the premise is very smart. After all, what is more American than a bowl of Cheerios?
This idea of Cheerios including African Americans in the scope of what is considered “family in America” is important. General Mills Inc. is obviously advertising to white, black and interracial audiences in this commercial.
So, instead of focusing on the controversy of the commercial, what about what exactly the commercial indicates about minority buying power?
How important are the opinions of African Americans to Cheerios and General Mills Inc? Will they take the chance of creating more commercials featuring ethnically diverse groups? Or will this be the last time they market to a wider, very significant fraction of their customers for fear of what a small fraction of viewers will think?
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