The ad that sparked a national controversy and movement.
The Fine Brothers had kids react to our ad. 9 million views.
The position (not positioning) we took.
GETTING AN UNFAIR SHARE OF CULTURE
Cheerios was the leader of the cereal category. However, the brand’s functional benefit of lowering cholesterol had become table-stakes. Cheerios had also entered the age of over-segmentation and micro-targeting. We had 5 different messages against 5 different targets. Moreover, the focus was entirely on the product at the expense of the emotional and brand. We had made an American icon culturally small. Baseline sales kept falling.
We set out to save an icon from becoming a fable by making the brand culturally relevant again.
We simplified Cheerios from 5 different messages into one, love. It’s the first finger-food. Parents eat it to live longer, so they can see their children grow up. We then explored the cultural tension around love in America and realized that it often depended on race, religion, sexual orientation and many other components. We decided to focus on race, as the make-up of U.S. families had changed. According to census data, interracial and same-sex couple households had grown by 28%. In fact, the number of Americans who identified as multiracial grew faster than those who identified as single-racial. Yet advertisers still ignored this reality.
However as a large American brand, Cheerios had a responsibility to take a stand on inclusivity and lead culture. This is why we reframed it "FROM LOWERING CHOLESTEROL TO SPREADING UNCONDITIONAL LOVE”.
We challenged the racially segregating norms in a way that only Cheerios could do: warm, nurturing and optimistic. A mom kind of love! Our first TV spot conveyed heart health through the eyes of an ethnically-mixed couple and their child, who dumps Cheerios on top of her napping father’s heart, because she wants him to live longer. We also used OOH, digital and social.
Our work sparked a nationwide controversy. "At first, it ignited real (supremacist) hate, and our Facebook page was shut down with so many hateful comments," Mark Addicks (CMO General Mills). But the brand remained firm.
Then came the love: Laurence O’Donnell, The View, Good Morning America and every news station reported and supported Cheerios. Our ad sparked a movement called “We Are The 15 Percent”, representing the 15% of interracial families. All of this led to $150 million in earned media.
More importantly, we grew baseline sales of the core by 5.3% in a category that was declining by 3.2%. This was the biggest leap for the brand in 20 years.
In light of its new-found confidence and love earned by consumers, the brand ran an evolved version of the commercial in the 2014 super bowl, taking part for the first time ever. We generated 80% of the category’s digital engagement with only 12% market share driving sales by +5%. That’s an Unfair Share of Culture. Cheerios Canada followed with a commercial featuring a gay couple and their adopted daughter.
Today, Cheerios is recognized at award shows (One Show OOH finalist, Jay Chiat Strategic Excellence Award) and growing again.
General Mills Cheerios