Wading into cultural issues when advertising can be dangerous territory for retail, food and consumer packaged good companies. A few years ago, Lowe’s caught heat for sponsoring a reality show called “All American Muslim,” and then scored even more grief when the DIY home improvement company suddenly pulled its advertisements. Last year Starbucks launched a “Race Together” campaign in an attempt to foster discussions over racial relations, a move that could be at best described as receiving very mixed reviews.
Honey Maid Graham Crackers has not shied away from such issues at all. The almost 120-year-old brand has been filming edgy commercials and YouTube mini-documentaries for over two years. In its latest campaign, “Neighbors,” the brand, now owned by Mondelez, showcases the initial wariness and then mutual acceptance of two neighbors — one of whom is Muslim. “Is anybody staring at you?” wonders a woman in a hijab. “I didn’t know anything about her culture — only what I saw in the news,” responded her fair-skinned, red-headed neighbor. Both families’ girls, however, brought the families together, with some of Honey Maid's wholesome assistance.
Whether you believe this ad is touching or cheesy, one must acknowledge that it is a bold move by a very traditional American brand. For months Americans have listened to the vitriol of presidential candidates such as Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson (though Harry Reid’s alleged comments have not been helpful, either) lash out against their favorite target, Muslims — although just about everyone else, including the poor, women, and gays have had to listen to this digital sludge, and read endless barbs about them as well. Such invective against Muslims has been amplified in the wake of bombings and mass murders in San Bernardino, Paris and Brussels as potential leaders have bashed a group of people at large to score cheap political points.
So don’t count on graham crackers being served at Republican fundraisers anytime soon. In addition, Honey Maid has also produced a commercial, “Mis Hijos,” which discusses a man coping with the fact that his son’s life partner is, in fact, a man. Working with its advertising agency, Droga5, for this campaign, Honey Maid has also released an advertisement that confronts the insecurities posed by interracial adoption. The overall theme -- the acceptance of the fact that families come in all shapes and forms -- may make a few people out there uncomfortable, but such is the reality of 21st-century life.
In past campaigns Honey Maid has touched upon other sensitive issues: the double-amputee returning home from war overseas; different expressions of love, including the moments some youth come out of the closet on Valentine’s Day; immigration; and what many kids raised in an urban environment miss out on. Ads featuring divorce and blended families, hardly new in American life but still an uncomfortable topic for many, have also been produced in recent years. Each video shows these families sharing graham crackers with peanut butter, topped by a sliced strawberry in the shape of a heart.
According to Honey Maid and Mondelez, these advertisements are simply part of the brand’s history of celebrating families and wholesome moments. But at a time when political rhetoric is often hateful and the Internet turns up harassment and abuse at an even higher level, such messages are welcome regardless the motive — even if they are promoting graham crackers with a side of peanut butter.
Not bad for a product that was invented during the 19th century, in part, to suppress carnal urges.
Image credit: Honey Maid YouTube Channel
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.