David Todd Lawrence listens at an event.

In the News: David Todd Lawrence on the Lasting Impact of an Innovative Cheerios Ad

David Todd Lawrence, a professor at the University of St. Thomas College of Arts and Sciences, recently discussed the lasting impact of a decade-old Cheerios ad in an interview with MinnPost.

From the story:

“This wasn’t storyboarded as a multiracial family,” said Doug Martin, chief brand officer for General Mills and in 2013 associate director of Cheerios brand marketing. “With kids, the most important thing is getting the right actor, and this girl (Colbert) just blew everyone away, so we chose the kid first. With kids, sometimes you get a kid that’s one way off camera and on camera you get something totally different, so getting the right kid is key. And Gracie, she’s biracial, so then we went about casting adult actors that would be a match for her.”

It was that match that changed advertising and culture over the past 10 years.

While the Cheerios ad changed popular culture, that may not have been the intent.

“The commercial is cute. It’s about love, but I shy away from thinking about a commercial being about social change,” said David Todd Lawrence, associate professor of American culture and difference, diversity leadership and English at the University of St. Thomas. “Bottom line is they’re (General Mills) a company trying to sell something. But I recognize the importance of representation in media and on television. And the spot reinforces the normalcy of the world we live in.”

The shift in representation has as much to do with societal issues as it does with the Cheerios ads, according to Lawrence.

“I think it has as much to do with (the killing of) Trevon Martin, Ferguson (uprising) – all the way up to (the murder of) George Floyd,” Lawrence said. “I think a commercial like that hitting at the right time with all of the things happening in the world all kind of went hand-in-hand.” ...