You’ve seen the ads. The cute little black girl with a white mother who pours Cheerios on her black dad’s heart because mom said Cheerios is heart-healthy. It’s precious. And it broke a lot of rules. The kind of rules that prime time television broke with Mr. and Mrs. Willis on The Jeffersons, or even Jodie Dallas from Soap.
Well, there was so much press that came out of this first spot, that Cheerios recently made another. And it’s as cute as any ad you’ll ever see (even though it doesn’t do much for the actual product like the first one does.) And yes, it still plays on controversy. Turn this into a commercial with an all black or all white family (or yes, any mono-ethnic family), and it’s just a really cute spot that runs at 3 p.m. on the Hallmark Channel.
But then yesterday I saw this new spot for Swifter (props for showing the product in use.)
Wait, what? Is this what we’re doing now? Out-Modern Familying each other with the idea of inclusion?
Look, I’m all about inclusion. We practice it in our house, and I’ve publicly endorsed it in ad campaigns. But I don’t know too many families who have mixed ethnicity. In fact we know more families that have gay parents than mixed ethnicities. Which is not to say that it’s not important, it’s just not that prevalent in American culture. So why else would Cheerios and Swifter focus on this particular family dynamic when it represents such a small slice of their potential target audience? Buzz. Plain and simple. The more positive buzz it generates, the more you remember the brand in a positive light, the more likely you are to buy a product. The simple truth just isn’t enough anymore.
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Jan 30, 2014
Interesting. I know a lot of interracial families. Statistically, there are more interracial families that gay families. Of course, it is difficult to get actual number (one group puts percent of interracial families at 15%, some voluntary studies put the percentage of gay Americans anywhere between 6 and 10%). It may not be prevalent within your social circles, but it is fairly prevalent in American culture, and even more prevalent in the 20-30 year olds with families demographic.
Jan 30, 2014
But WHY do they intellectually inclusive? We live in the age of identity politics. Americans tend to “sort” themselves into tribes and social circles based on political stances, even more so than religious stances. People associate with and live around people of similar political views. They buy from companies they feel share their political views. By showing gay or interracial families, this companies are targeting young liberals and hoping they will think, “this company supports my political identity, I’m going to buy from them.”
You don’t think a company like Chick-fil-a would ever show an interracial family, do you? Of course not – their target audience is older, white conservatives. This is why they intentionally made anti-gay statements – it was a dog-whistle for conservatives to rally around them. It’s the say way conservatives rallied around Duck Dynasty.
Politicians have been keen on dog-whistle politics for a long time – since when they had to stop saying the “n” word publicly and instead say things like “forced busing” and “welfare recipients” and the “47% of Americans who are takers.”
Jan 30, 2014
I personally have nothing against inclusion except when it’s being used as a tool of exploitation for brands. I’ve known plenty of interracial (though I prefer interenthic) families. People are people. I don’t care who marries who, frankly. But if this is the direction we’re going with advertising, are we going to start putting superimposed text under people in commercials identifying them as diabetics, alcoholics, gay, etc.? as a way for brands to identify with their prospective audience? When does the madness end?
Jan 30, 2014
I don’t know if it is exploitation. You could say that about all advertising – perhaps a cynic would say that advertising is simply journalism without the ethics. Maybe they picked people to be in their ads because they were the best available actors. Maybe because they think that represents America – after all, since the majority of Americans are white, why not just use white actors all the time? Maybe they do it as a dog whistle to people of a certain political view. Who knows why; we can only speculate. It’s not like they are saying “as an interracial family, we like this product.” They are just doing normal, everyday family stuff, not doing anything in the adds to draw attention to themselves.
But if it IS done intentionally, is that any better or worse than intentionally excluding people from advertising – let me know when you see an interethnic family in a Chick-fil-a add.
Jan 30, 2014
Oh it’s definitely intentional.
The Best Commercial of the Super Bowl | obsessed with conformity
Feb 1, 2014
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Jul 9, 2014
Hi,Let me tie a few things toehtger here. First, it is good to see that Cheerios is embracing multi-cultural/multi-racial families in the US. Mattel is still considering diversity despite their international footprint. Second, by chance a friend sent me a podcast of a book signing by Chimanada Ngozi Adichie. Any guess as to which one it was? Yes, the one where you introduced her. Chimanada made some good points in her comments and you made an excellent introduction. Third, I have started Americanah and can’t wait to get more into it and see how the story unfolds get a picture of an outsider’s view on race relations in the US. Finally, we shall continue to fight the fight and empower people of diverse backgrounds.
My novel – Minor King
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