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.
A CULTURAL TENSION STRATEGY:
Making Cheerios Iconic Again
(Jay Chiat Strategic Excellence Award, One Show Finalist)
The work on Cheerios wasn’t memorable and certainly not talked about. Baseline sales fell as the brand suffocated under a wave of rational ads across 4 different target segments. The focus was on the product at the expense of the emotional and brand. Cheerios was narrow-casted into lowering cholesterol -which was not unique – and made culturally small. The brand’s functional claim had also come under scrutiny by the FDA. It was time for a step change.
The objective was to make Cheerios iconic again (bigger than lowering cholesterol) and newsworthy.
We simplified Cheerios from four different messages into one, the core equity, love. It’s the first finger-food. Parents eat it to live longer, so they can see their children grow up. Then we explored the cultural tension around love in America and realized that it often depended on skin color, religion and sexual orientation. While the make-up of U.S. families had changed (Interracial and same-sex couple households have grown by 28%), advertisers still ignored this evolution, perhaps out of fear to alienate some of their core constituents.
As a large American brand, Cheerios had a responsibility to be inclusive and take a stand, which is why we reframed it from heart health to “SPREAD UNCONDITIONAL LOVE”.
We challenged the racially segregating norms in a way that only Cheerios could do it: 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, Cheerios continued with its cultural tension strategy. The brand ran an evolved version of the commercial in the 2014 super bowl, taking part for the first time ever. 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