Friday, May 31, 2013

Cute Cheerios ad incites racist flamewar

There was a time, a few years ago, when it was common casting procedure on our Canadian government ads to cast families of different ethnic backgrounds. This was an easy way to show population diversity even when the action took place in a single household. The challenge was always to avoid making it look forced, or turning it into a cliché. We just wanted to show families that more people could identify with, and not feel excluded by.

So it was interesting for me to open up Gawker and read about the controversy surrounding a new Cheerios spot from the United States:

Apparently, Cheerios had to shut down the comments thread in its YouTube post of the ad was flooded with racist hate speech. I can't give you a firsthand account, but AdFreak Editor Tim Nudd describes it as "devolved into an endless flame war, with references to Nazis, 'troglodytes' and 'racial genocide'."

But almost as surprising, to me, is what a huge (positive) deal people on Cheerios' Facebook Page are making, as if depicting families that don't all have the same complexion is some kind of marketing revolution.

I guess both the bad and the good show how far American culture has to go when it comes to getting over its obsession with "race" (whatever that means). When everyone can look at an ad like this and just see a family, then we'll know there's been progress.

By the way, to circle back to my first point, congratulations to Saatchi & Saatchi NYC for achieving an effortless realism in what was apparently a very momentous casting choice.

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