Ads with same-sex, multiracial couples challenge norms

Some advertisers are happy to reflect societal norms, while others aim to push established expectations.

Marketers push boundaries to attract attention

A Honey Maid ad showing same-sex parents and multiracial couples generated a lot of backlash. (Honey Maid)

Some advertisers are happy to reflect societal norms, while others aim to push established expectations. In Canada, commercials depicting multiracial customers air regularly.

But things are a little different in the U.S. For example, when this Cheerios commercial ran in May 2013, there was an immediate backlash.

Social media exploded over the fact that a multiracial family was shown. Hateful, racist comments were posted by the thousands.

When positive comments eventually outweighed negative, Cheerios was emboldened to feature the same family in a 2014 Super Bowl ad. That ad earned a similarly mixed response.

Sensing an opportunity to make an impression, Swiffer ran an ad that pushed things a bit further, this time featuring a multiracial family with an amputee father figure who does the housework.

Then Honey Maid piled on with an ad that showed all manner of families — including multiracial and same-sex — and had the nerve to claim such families are wholesome.

This time when the hateful comments poured in, Honey Maid was ready … almost as if it had been expecting them.

In this follow-up commercial, it commissioned two artists to print out all the vicious rants and turn them into a 3D sculpture that spelled "love."

The response to racial diversity in advertising also depends on how it’s portrayed. If race is used as a way to reflect a company’s customers back to themselves, most viewers react positively. But if racial diversity is presented as a novelty in order to get attention, many viewers will object.