Posted on June 5, 2018

A Sign of ‘Modern Society’: More Multiracial Families in Commercials

Joanne Kaufman, New York Times, June 3, 2018


Recently, companies and brands like JPMorgan Chase, Humira, State Farm, Smile Direct Club, Coors Light, Macy’s, Tide and Cadillac have featured multiracial couples or families in their advertising.

“There’s no doubt that the incidence of these commercials is at least double what it was five years ago,” said Larry Chiagouris, a professor of marketing at the Pace University Lubin School of Business.


That relatively new awareness, Mr. Chiagouris said, has resulted in not only more ads with interracial couples, but also more gay and lesbian couples.

The prevalence of these commercials “is a reflection of modern society,” said Sarah Block, the executive vice president and creative director of Leo Burnett USA, who has worked on several ads depicting multiracial families, including commercials for Kraft. {snip}

The commercials are a way for a companies to signal that they’re open minded and progressive. “I think there’s an ever increasing demand from customers to understand not just what products and services you provide but also to understand who you are as a company, what your values are,” said Fiona Carter, the chief brand officer of AT&T, which owns DirecTV.

“I think there’s been a seismic shift in people demanding that the media they’re consuming truly portray their lives,” she added. “I would say there’s been a corresponding intentionality in our company to ensure that we’re doing right by our customers — portraying diversity — and letting our customers then see their own stories in the advertising we do.”

Of course, not all viewers have been enthusiastic or even accepting. When Cheerios released a commercial in 2013 featuring an interracial family, it received enough racist vitriol online that the YouTube comment channel below the ad was closed. But there was also an outpouring of support, and Cheerios ran a sequel to the ad during the Super Bowl in 2014.


Old Navy and State Farm have also dealt with racist commentary online after posting Twitter spots that showed interracial relationships.

At this point, such advertising isn’t considered particularly groundbreaking, said Allen Adamson, a co-founder of Metaforce, a marketing strategy firm, “but because we’re a polarized nation, they still don’t sit at all well with some consumers.”


Marty Kohr, a lecturer in persuasive messaging at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, cited data from the Pew Research Center to explain brands’ interest in depicting multiracial couples and families in their advertising. In 2017, 39 percent of poll respondents said interracial marriage was good for society, up from 24 percent in 2010.

“For the growing number of people who think interracial marriage is a good thing, that positions your brand as forward-thinking and inclusive,” Mr. Kohr said.