Cheerios is standing by its "Just Checking" commercial, which features a white mother, black father, and biracial daughter.
In the 30-second ad, the little girl asks her mother if it's true that Cheerios are good for the heart. The mother reads the box and her daughter smiles and takes the box. The commercial cuts to the father sleeping on the couch with a pile of Cheerios on his chest.
The commercial received numerous racist comments on YouTube, and the comments section was eventually disabled. The commercial was posted on May 28 and has received 2,463,003 views, 32,468 likes, and 1,774 comments at the time of this writing.
Cheerios' vice president of marketing, Camille Gibson, said that it is the first time the ad campaign has featured an interracial couple, and that General Mills cast actors that reflect the changing and diverse population of the United States.
"We felt like we were reflecting an American family," she said. Gibson said it was also the first time that the company had to disable the comments section on one of its videos. The commercial will continue to run as scheduled for several months, and Gibson said Cheerios isn't planning any changes. She did not say whether the company would continue to feature interracial ads or not.
Despite the backlash, Gibson said, "Consumers are actually responding very positively to the ad."
Charles Malik Whitfield, who played the sleeping father, thanked supporters of the commercial.
"Let's not pretend racism doesn't exist. Let's not pretend that we've come so far. Let's be conscious of and appreciate the noise, and the negativity, because there's so much work to be done," he said.
Laura Ries, who has written five books on marketing and is the co-founder of consulting firm Ries Ries, said "The reality is that in general most big companies don't want to take a lot of risks. The ability for nameless, faceless people to get on the Internet is out there, and companies don't like it when people yell at them."
Ries added, "It's important for brands to take risks in line with what their brand is about. In this case Cheerios is the first food of children everywhere."