Posted on March 13, 2021

Americans See More Interracial Relationships in Advertising

Deborah Block, Voice of America, March 7, 2021

A happy interracial family hugging each other while wearing apparel from clothing retailer Old Navy. A smiling Black man giving his white girlfriend an engagement ring in a State Farm insurance ad. And a biracial couple and their kids on a road trip in a vehicle made by Hyundai.

These are among the increasing number of advertisements selling everything from cereal to prescription drugs that portray the American family in ways few companies and advertising agencies would have dared a generation ago.


In Alexandria, Virginia, Kelly Thalman, who is white and a single mother to a biracial child, is glad to see the trend.


Mark Jones, president of Jones Advertising in Seattle, Washington, said his agency tries to reflect multiculturalism in its ads.

“It’s a conscious decision, and we’re trying to better represent America,” he told VOA.

It is also smart business.

“It’s the brands wanting to let customers know they are listening and sensitive to their needs, many of whom are not Caucasian,” said Larry Chiagouris, a marketing professor at Pace University in New York. {snip}


Positive or negative, companies know they are going to get a reaction to their interracial advertising, explained Subodh Bhat, a marketing professor at San Francisco State University in California. He said that while the ads may attract consumers from biracial families or relationships, they also pull in customers whose values align with the diversity in TV commercials and other advertising.


Even so, while researching advertising with mixed-race couples as recently as 2018, Bhat discovered that “ads depicting Black and white couples elicited more negative emotions and attitudes toward a brand than comparable ads showing same-race couples.”


While interracial ads may reflect an increasingly diverse America becoming more of a melting pot, they are not a mirror on society, according to Morgan State University Professor Jason Johnson, who is currently doing research on interracial advertising.

Johnson notes that 70% of interracial commercials from the past four years show a white man with a Black woman. The reality, he said, is a Black man with a white woman is more common in America.