A General Mills commercial airing nationwide since Monday has drawn strong and growing reaction and counter-reaction online and across social media. The commercial, for Cheerios, features a biracial family. After it was uploaded to YouTube, the spot drew so many racist comments that  the company decided to disable the comments function.

“We’re a family brand, and not all of the comments were entirely family friendly, so we turned off the comments feature for a bit,” said spokesman Mike Siemienas. “We may turn it back on at some point.”

In the commercial (watch it below), a little girl asks her mother if it’s true that Cheerios are good for the heart. After her mother says yes, she smiles, running out of the room with the box of the cereal. The camera cuts to her father napping on the couch. She has covered the left top section of his chest, over his heart, with Cheerios. The mother in the spot is white, the father black.  

As of Friday evening, the thumbs up” approvals were outnumbering the “thumbs down” by more than six to one, but other YouTube posters are copying the spot and creating their own sites for comments, many of which are also angrily racist.

It’s not the ad’s content, but the Internet medium that has sparked all the vitriol, said John Eighmey, advertising professor at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications, While no one hears you when you talk back to your TV, he said, your views can be shared with the world on sites like YouTube.

“You take that risk anytime you offer up anything on a website,” Eighmey said. “There is an element predisposed to make negative comments and they pounce on it.”

General Mills has no plans to pull the ad, which was produced by the Saatchi & Saatchi agency’s New York office.

We know there are many types of families and we celebrate them all,” said Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for the brand.

Business reporter Mike Hughlett contributed to this post.




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