TAMPA, Fla. – The commercial starts with a curly-haired cutie talking to her mom, a white woman, about Cheerios.
“Dad told me that Cheerios is good for your heart. Is that true,” she asks.
The little girl then runs off and you see her dad, a black man, covered in Cheerios. The joke is that she wanted to make his heart healthy. But the reality is, this ad that ends in “love” has generated a lot of hate.
The social media blowback of the biracial family got so bad, General Mills decided to disable all of its YouTube comments.
“I was a bit surprised and a bit disappointed I’d say,” Sajeev Varki, an associate professor of marketing at USF said. “I really can’t figure out what they found objectionable.”
According to AdWeek, the comments devolved into references to Nazis, “troglodytes” and “racial genocide.”
Varki says in advertising, children can often trigger more intense emotions, so it may have been seeing the little girl of mixed race that elicited the strong response in some people.
But in 2013, a time when interracial marriage has been legal now for decades, Varki points out that this ad is reality. He hopes other companies don’t shy away from it because of what he calls a “small sliver” of society.
“What they’ve done is the right thing,” said Varki. “There’s always a little sliver that’s a bit uncomfortable with mixed race. This doesn’t represent the audience for General Mills. They shouldn’t be held hostage to that.”
The makers of Cheerios are trying to look past the controversy.
In a statement to ABC News, Camille Gibson the VP of Marketing for Cheerios said, “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all.”