Cheerios’ Bold Move Outs Racist Maniacs

Kudos to Cheerios for bravely taking a step into the new multiculturalism that already shapes America’s population, but is rarely portrayed in media.

In less than 72 hours, Cheerios’ “Just Checking” commercial racked up 300,000 views on their YouTube channel (now close to 3 Million) and pulled the sheets off of America’s closeted, racist underbelly. Following suit of the other spots in the campaign, “Just Checking” innocently features a child interacting with her parents. The pot-stirring difference appears to be the ethnicities of the multiracial daughter, Anglo-(looking) mom and African American(-looking) dad. So stirred was this pot of discrimination, so visceral the comments left by trolls, that Cheerios decided to disable its comments on this video, proving that with progress does not often come without resistance. has continued the dialogue on their message boards, where you can read (or chime in) on both sides of this heated and storied debate. Even Ad Age wrote a post on the breakfast cereal that was socially shared more than 600 times within hours of its posting.

Shaherra Rolen Family
Our own Shaherra Rolen commented that for the first time in recent memory, she saw a commercial image that resembled her own multi-racial family. She stated:

It’s great to finally see a commercial that is relatable to me, a wholesome family that just happens to be multiethnic.  Growing up I didn’t see a lot of mixed people fully represented on television.  Even now, the family structure is still shown as two parents of the same ethnicity.  I’m so glad to have had my bowl of Cheerios this morning and will do more to support General Mills products.

In your opinion, do you think Cheerios and General Mills took a brave step into the new multiculturalism, or did they try too hard? And how do you think this will affect the casting of future American TV spots?

Justin J. Jordan




We’re all entitled to mistakes and oversights, but REALLY?!  Troubled retail giant JCPenney is now being scrutinized about a teapot.  Look closely at the photo.  What do you see?  Was it a teapot or an ambiguous sight of Adolf Hitler?

As if the company needed any more negative media attention.  On the heels of the whole “shock value” that we’ve seen over the past month with other brands like Kmart, Mountain Dew and Radio Shack, I’m not so sure is this is the route JCPenney intended.

This goes back to not just the advertising agency but also JCPenney and its creative approval process.  As a marketer, I find it hard to believe that not one person involved in the development of this advertisement sat back and said, “Hmm”.

It is the responsibility of the ad agency to view ads from all angles, however what good is it if the client doesn’t listen?  I’m not sure if this was the case with this execution, however the resemblance to Adolf Hitler was too striking for no one to have said, “Wait a minute.”

What are your thoughts?


Oklahoma3If you haven’t already heard, Monday’s tragic tornado in Oklahoma killed at least 24 people. By Tuesday morning #PrayForOklahoma was trending and people all over the country were sending their condolences.


Interesting, isn’t it? Tragedies tend to bring people together and social media seems to be the driver. So, what does this mean for brands?

1)     Say it first – Brands need to remain relevant. Consumers are bombarded with messages more than ever before and marketers need to find a way to beat the clutter. Once a topic has run its course it becomes obsolete.  In other words, you do not want to be the brand that tweets about the Oklahoma tornado once everyone is fully aware of the details. If you remain consistent and relevant you will build credibility with your audience and they will, ultimately, confide in you. This may not produce a hike in sales today but it will help build brand equity in the long-run.

2)     Humanize yourself – To humanize your brand is to make it authentic. As marketers, we need to embrace the human side of communication. It is in our nature to connect with others, usually based on common interests. If consumers see you as a “friend” they will be more likely to become brand loyal. You can’t become someone’s friend by merely talking about yourself or the products you offer. You become someone’s friend by relating to their interests and being genuine about it. For the past few days, people have been absorbed in the Oklahoma tornado and brands – the smart ones – have joined the cause.

At the end of the day, people connect with what is real, and social media allows marketers to connect easier and more frequently than ever before! All we have to do, as marketers, is embrace our brand personality and remain relevant. Easy, peasy.

On another note – our condolences to those affected by the Oklahoma tornado.

Radio Shock

First Kmart, then Mountain Dew, now Radio Shack.  It seems that every week another company is pushing the advertising envelope with shock.  Kmart kicked off with “Shipped My Pants”, I can deal with that.  I actually thought it was fairly clever.  One Million Moms on the other hand, didn’t think so.  They wanted this ad pulled from the Internet.  Kmart responded by placing the ad on television.

Mountain Dew’s goat commercials have been deemed racist and sexist.  PepsiCo has pulled the Internet ads.  (Read previous blog post, “Series(al) Killer).  Rev. Jesse Jackson  decided to have conversation with the beverage giant and the serious implications of the campaign.

Now, on to Radio Shack.  Their latest commercial for Beat by Dre Pill Speakers features crooner Robin Thicke, singing the hook to his latest single, “Blurred Lines”.  The commercial was very similar to the video for the song, except it featured the speakers with the hashtag #uwantit. The music video, in my opinion is very risqué and is filled with sexual innuendo.  The commercial is very similar and shows a woman on all fours with the oval shaped speakers on her back.

Shock value works sometimes.  I get that.  We use it to gain attention, get people talking and get our message across.  But when does it cross the lines and becomes poor taste?  Sometimes the shock value can have the adverse affects and have people talking negatively about the brand or product.  What do you think?  Did Radio Shack go too far or have we been desensitized enough that the shock is really not shocking?

Mother’s Day Began As A Failed Marketing Campaign



Each and every Mother’s Day, the people of this great world celebrate mom and mums publicly, and very commercially. Each nation may have its own unique date on the calendar, but the jovial lavishing of flowers and cards, candies and toddler-made Crayola masterpieces bear the same sentiment. Here in the US, we celebrate Mother’s Day on the 2nd Sunday of every May (May 13, 2013)*.


But did you know that Mother’s Day originated from a failed marketing campaign? Not for commercial purposes, to my relief. Early in the 20th century, a woman named Anna Jarvis held a memorial and laid her own mother to rest at Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia.[1] This would later be known as the first Mother’s Day. The year was 1908 to be precise, the same year the Chicago Cubs won the world series, the FBI was founded, and Portugal’s King Carlos I was assassinated.[2] Full of emotion, Jarvis was inspired with the idea that all families should celebrate their mothers, and her campaign for Mother’s Day was born.


In 1912, Anna Jarvis began trademarking the phrases, “Second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day” respectively. She insisted that the spelling “be a singular possessive, for each family to honor their mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.” The spelling stands to this day. But it was not until 1914 that her campaigning efforts were successful and Mother’s Day became an official American Holiday. The bill passed with a unanimous House vote, and was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson.[3] But to her great disappointment, the American Holiday had been heavily commercialized by the 1920s. The commercialization stands to this day[4].


How do you honor your mother(s) each Mother’s Day? And for all the moms, how do you like to be honored?



How do you honor your mother(s) each Mother’s Day? And for all the moms, how do you like to be honored?

Series(al) Killer

series(al) killer

If you haven’t heard by now, PepsiCo has has killed the Mountain Dew commercials surrounding a talking goat that has beaten up a woman and was in a police lineup.  The commercials have been cited as stereotyping Black males, racist and sexist.  Tyler, the Creator, a 22-year-old rapper/producer (who himself is African-American) created the campaign, which included some of his music group members and friends.  He has defended the commercials, denying any racism and claiming it was just supposed to be funny.  According to Tyler, his friends were “basically wearing their own clothes”.

I shared the commercial around the office and here are some of the responses:

1)  “Whoa… obviously they need a multicultural agency to help keep them from making stupid mistakes like that.  Often clients go out looking for what they think are “more creative, cutting edge” ways of reaching the young, millennial target through music talent, without truly understanding the nuances of the audience and not having the checks and balances in place that keep them from making this kind of grievous marketing error.

Maybe not overtly RACIST, but should have taken into account that there are 4 black guys in a police line up looking stereotypically criminal.  I understand this is a group but needed to include somehow a white guy(s).  Also suggests the idea of a white female being beat up by a black guy (although actually beat up by the  goat).  Just too far…”

2) “Call me insensitive but I didn’t see the commercial as racist. I’m not saying the spot deserves an ADDY but racism—no ma’am, no sir. I think the race card is being overused—can we play another card for subpar spots that contain black people? Advertising wouldn’t be advertising without criticism. I hope the PepsiCo brand doesn’t go into “super safe” mode and deliver creative that blends in with the rest of the ad noise.”

3) “Anybody think about the Doritos goat that beat up its owner for Doritos?  Yup, this is called “Biting,” pun intended.

The 4 Black males are all members of the same musical group as the “Creative” person who developed it for Mountain Dew, Tyler the Creator. Racist? That’s all about perception. Accidental racism almost always is. About perception, or lack thereof. If you don’t know the group, it looks really bad. If you know the group, it just looks like a watered down, weird version of their always-overtly-racy-purposely-offensive content.

If you think this is bad, don’t listen to eight bars of even ONE song.

My question, is why would Mountain Dew even put this in the market? They had to have known it would step on some toes. This was a marketing coup, IMHO.”

4)  “I find this commercial social irresponsible.  I understand that many people may know Tyler, the Creator and that he pushes the envelope, but I have no clue who he is.  The campaign is in bad taste and makes light serious situations.  Just reading Tyler’s Twitter was enough to make me cringe, I am not sure how Mountain Dew or PepsiCo thought it was in good taste to have this represent their brand.  What was the approval process?  Was a focus group used or did the company just throw the commercial online to test the waters?  Taking full responsibility is not enough after the fact.  Companies need to really do their due diligence before pushing a campaign such as this.  To me, this shows ignorance, arrogance and bad taste, all in the name of ‘creativity’.”

You’ve heard from us.  Now we want to hear from you.  What are your thoughts around Mountain Dew’s campaign?

Oh Ship!

The title alone made you want to read more.  You probably had to read it twice to make sure you read it correctly.  Similarly, a great ad grabs your attention.  But what about the content?  Should consumers be satisfied with the continuous shove of celebrity endorsements or stunned by an ad that uses shock methods to draw them in?

Recently, Kmart aired their latest commercial online.  They “Shipped Their Pants”… and drawers and bed.  It was enough to get the buzz growing around Kmart and letting customers know about their strong online shopping presence.

In about a week there were over 11 million hits and consumers made their own versions of the 30-second commercial.  Does that alone constitute a great ad?  Was the intended message effectively conveyed?  Shelf life is critical.  The message needs to hit hard while there is still a buzz.

About two months ago, the “Harlem Shake” hit the Internet with everyone from the Armed Forces to to the Miami Heat players posting their rendition.  Right now, it’s old news.

Testing the waters online can be a great strategy.  Advertisers can see if there is in interest and possible move the commercial into other mediums. However, online advertising may not crossover as seamlessly to television or radio.  There might be some backlash for what can be seen as an immature attempt at humor once aired.

Remember, we live in a digital age.  If the consumers don’t like it, believe that they’ll let you know.  Instantly!