A TV ad involving an interracial family and Cheerios breakfast cereal is stirring racial controversy long before it airs in its scheduled slot during the Super Bowl Feb. 2.
The ad, in which a bi-racial girl asks for a puppy after learning she will soon have a little brother, has touched off both a fresh spasm of disdain for interracial marriage and their offspring and an outpouring of support for the fictional family.
The early public reaction to the ad, slated to run during the first unscheduled timeout in the contest between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, echoes the polarized response to an ad featuring the same family a year ago that generated a shocking initial negative response but shortly evolved into a cereal sales uptick possibly reflecting the general public’s support of the social message dramatized by the ad.
So far, the 30-second ad, a second glimpse of the interplay of a family made of a bi-racial litle girl, her Black father and White mother, has ignited a series of comments in social media, including a Twitter post by an MSNBC staffer:
“Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go “awww” The adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family.”
Apparently in the GOP’s quest to soften it’s hardline conservative image, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus demanded a personal apology for the “petty and demeaning” tweet. MSNBC President Phil Griffin promptly provided the apology reportedly following the firing of an MSNBC network staffer responsible for the tweet.
Such responses and the reactions to them are a troubling signal to F. Michael Higginbotham, University of Baltimore law professor and the author of Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America.
“I thought we had made progress in accepting interracial marriage,” he told the AFRO. “Most troubling is the fact that so many Americans ...can’t accept that today’s American family has so many different looks.”
General Mills said last year that it cast the actors to reflect the changing U.S. population. The Minneapolis-based company continued running the initial ad for several months following it’s introduction.
In the weeks after the ad made headlines, CEO Ken Powell noted in an earnings call that Cheerios' sales performance was benefiting from new advertising, although he didn't specifically cite an ad or the controversy for the improvement.
General Mills, which also makes Lucky Charms, Kix, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, has been struggling to boost sluggish cereal sales in recent years as Americans increasingly reach for other options in the morning.
In the new Cheerios spot set to debut during the Super Bowl, the father uses individual Cheerios to represent each member of the family, explaining to his young daughter that, "Pretty soon, you're going to have a baby brother."
The girl smiles and adds another Cheerio to the little pile.
"And, a puppy," she negotiates. Her father says it's a deal. The ad closes with a shot of the mom, watching from the side, looking alarmed at that development.
A 30-second spot during the Super Bowl costs around $4 million this year.