You don’t really think of ad campaigns as the can openers for important conversations, yet sometimes it happens, whether or not that was the intention. The fact is that advertising reflects our culture, and sometimes that alone is enough to spark discussion of larger issues. Here are some ad campaigns that led to far broader discussions than probably intended.
Police Twitter Campaign
Police in New York City, trying to demonstrate, I assume, good community relations, launched a Twitter campaign asking people to tweet their pictures with police officers to include on the department’s Facebook page. It went about as well as you are probably thinking it went. Instead of the heart-warming, community-building moments you’d think they were wanting, the police department got face-bloodied, hair-pulling, stop-and-frisk snapshots instead. This campaign may not have gotten the intended result, but it brings up a conversation that can’t be covered up with friendly pictures of warm handshakes. Police brutality isn’t a public relations snafu.
Cheerios Interracial Family
It was an ad I noticed simply for its heartwarming cuteness. An adorable little girl, concerned about her daddy’s health, asks her mother if Cheerios are good for your heart. She takes the box, and then we see her father waking up on the couch, his chest covered in Cheerios. That her mom is white and her dad is black may have registered, but I didn’t think much beyond the sweetness. Until the racist backlash started. How can anyone be that worked up over what families look like in the 21st century is beyond me, but I think these kids express my feelings on the matter best. As for Cheerios, the company doubled down, bringing the family back for an equally charming Super Bowl sequel, confirming we’ve already had this conversation and it’s time for culture to move on.
Honey Maid Diverse Families
I’m going to admit it. The first time I saw the Honey Maid graham cracker commercial featuring a wide array of families, I got choked up. It’s was both a simple thing and a complicated thing all at once, the effortless inclusion of that ad. And, of course, the seemingly omnipresent hate followed, aimed at both the interracial family and the family with two dads. But Honey Maid was not deterred. There were no hasty apologies, there was no back-peddling. Instead the company answered critics with this video. Now that’s a conversation.