For showing what families really look like.
The advertising industry has always trailed behind societal norms, but Cheerios caught up in a big way last May with the debut of its “Just Checking” ad. In it, a little girl asks her mother if it’s true that Cheerios are good for your heart; a beat later, her father wakes up from a nap in the other room, covered in Cheerios. But the big reveal isn’t the cereal spilling all over him–it’s the fact that he’s African-American and his wife is not. The response from some corners was both hostile and immediate.
Camille Gibson made the decision to turn off comments on the ad’s YouTube page, telling USA Today, “We are a family brand, and not all of the comments were family-friendly,” but she and her team stood by the ad. “There are many kinds of families,” she said, “and Cheerios celebrates them all.” Reflecting on it today, Gibson says that “while we did have a little bit of controversy, on the whole it was very, very positive”–not to mention a boon for the brand, increasing its online exposure by 77%, according to content-marketing firm Kontera. While Gibson won’t comment on future plans, she did bring back the “Just Checking” family for a second spot, which aired during the Super Bowl. “It’s an event where a lot of family members sit down together,” she says. “It was a great place for our brand to be.”