General Mills exec: Cheerios commercials reflect the modern American family


For a Mother's Day feature, CBS Sunday Morning broadcast a story about how American families are changing and used vintage advertising campaigns by Cheerios to demonstrate the evolution.

The story again reviewed two Cheerios commercials that got plenty of attention for featuring a family where "...the mother is white, the father is African-American, and the little girl . . . well, she's just adorable." But Mark Addicks, chief marketing officer for General Mills, was interviewed for the story, said that despite the structural changes, what binds families together remains unchanged, and he said the Cheerios commercials, then and now, reflect that.

"What has stayed the same are the traditional values and desires to bring a family together, to nurture kids, to make them develop and be everything they can be," Addicks said.

CBS pointed out the sweeping demographic changes that have reshaped the composition of the family unit. "In 1938 General Mills commissioned Norman Rockwell to paint scenes from American family life. But households today look less and less like those images from the last century," the story noted. More than 15 percent of new marriages are interracial or interethnic. One-parent homes are on the rise, and the number of same-sex couples with children is the highest ever recorded.

Last month, the Business Journal reported that General Mills won an award from the North Central Minority Supplier Development Council, an organization that connects large companies with minority-owned suppliers in the Midwest. At a luncheon awards ceremony, General Mills CEO Ken Powell told the crowd, made up of many minority business owners, that the company was proud of the Cheerios commercial.

"Doing the right thing ended up being the right thing for the brand," Powell said, noting that 90 percent of the response to the commercial was supportive.

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