In early March, Honey Maid launched its “This Is Wholesome” ad campaign featuring several “unconventional” families – a family with two dads, a mixed-race family, a “rocker” family, a military family and a single dad and his son. The 30-second commercial normalized these “atypical” families – showing them engaging in everyday activities like taking walks, getting dressed in the morning or enjoying Honey Maid’s iconic graham crackers. And – even more revolutionary – the ad made the assertion that these families are just as wholesome as the 1950s stereotypical family: a mom, dad, 2.5 kids and dog -- an archetype that many would argue was actually more uncommon than such “nontraditional” families.
“No matter how things change, what makes us wholesome never will,” the ad says. “Honey Maid: Everyday wholesome snacks for every wholesome family.”
But after the ad drew criticism from religious and anti-gay circles over the family with two gay dads portrayed in the commercial, the company released a follow-up video on social media last week, addressing both the negative and positive comments it received. Entitled simply “Love,” the video begins by displaying some of the ad’s disapproving feedback: “Horrible, NOT ‘WHOLESOME,” and “Disgusting!” Honey Maid then says it asked two artists to turn the online hate mail into something else: The video shows artists rolling up individuals pieces of paper, each with a negative comment printed on it, and squeezing glue on each piece to form some sort of structure. At first, the viewer may be discouraged by what seems like a huge amount of critical responses to the ad. Then the camera pulls back, and you see that the artists have used the paper rolls to write out the word, “Love.”
As if that wasn’t enough to bring a tear to your eye (yes, this ad about graham crackers is so powerful it may bring you to tears), the video continues, saying that the company received over 10 times as many positive comments than negative ones: “Family is family” and “Makes my heart happy,” just to name a few. The artists roll up pieces of paper with supportive feedback and place it around the “Love” structure, so the room fills up with these new paper rolls, and the viewer sees the overwhelming amount of commendation Honey Maid earned for the original campaign – so much that it literally and visually overwhelms the word, "Love."
This proves, the company says, “that only one thing really matters when it comes to family,” and that is, of course, love. The video had more than 1.5 million views on its first day online, the New Yorker reported.
It was no surprise that Honey Maid’s “This Is Wholesome” commercial raised eyebrows: Coca-Cola found itself embroiled in controversy earlier this year after the beverage giant’s “It’s Beautiful” Superbowl ad intimated that individuals of different ethnicities and cultures and a family with two dads were all-American. And last year, Cheerios was besieged with so many nasty comments for its commercial featuring an interracial family that it had to block the ad’s YouTube comments.
While the volume of criticism over corporate commercials that spotlight “nontraditional” families or Americans is disheartening, Honey Maid’s “Love” video reminds us that these types of campaigns also receive a significant amount of praise and support, which is probably why many companies are coming to the conclusion that discrimination of any kind is bad for business: Whether it’s the National Football League looking for alternative Superbowl venues in case Arizona had passed a bill allowing businesses to refuse services to individuals based on religious beliefs or OkCupid blocking its dating service on Firefox browsers due to the Mozilla CEO’s stance against same-sex marriage.
And now, with commercials like those from Honey Maid, Cheerios and Coke, it seems like some companies are moving beyond avoiding discriminatory policies and practices to promote inclusion as part of their brand – and they’ll stand by their position, whether its Cheerios bringing back its controversial mixed-race family in later commercials or this follow-up “Love” video from Honey Maid.
You can watch the original “This Is Wholesome” commercial here and learn more about the families shown in the ad through documentaries on Honey Maid’s YouTube channel.
Image credit: Flickr/Andrea Goh
Passionate about both writing and sustainability, Alexis Petru is freelance journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area whose work has appeared on Earth911, Huffington Post and Patch.com. Prior to working as a writer, she coordinated environmental programs for Bay Area cities and counties. Connect with Alexis on Twitter at @alexispetru
Passionate about both writing and sustainability, Alexis Petru is freelance journalist and communications consultant based in the San Francisco Bay Area whose work has appeared on Earth911, Huffington Post and Patch.com. Prior to working as a writer, she coordinated environmental programs for various Bay Area cities and counties for seven years. She has a degree in cultural anthropology from UC Berkeley.