Mondelez, which owns the popular cookie brand, Oreo, came under fire from two prominent political activist groups, the American Family Association, and One Million Moms. The target of their ire? An LGBTQ-friendly advert was released to coincide with National Coming Out Day.
If a brand takes a public stand on a social or political issue, they should expect some public pushback, so this didn’t really come as a surprise to Mondelez. However, the accusations in some of the public comments did catch some off guard. One Million Moms leader, Monica Cole, said, “Oreo and parent company, Mondelez International, are attempting to normalize the LGBTQ lifestyle by using their commercials to brainwash children and adults…”
Cole goes on to describe the commercial in question as follows: “The ad has a daughter going home to see her family and brings (sic) her lesbian lover with her… The commercial focuses on the mother approving… but the father is hesitant… He later has a change of heart and even displays his acceptance by painting his fence in rainbow colors… It is obvious that the company is going after our children… showing support for LGBTQ youth…”
The statement from Cole called for supporters to boycott Mondelez brands, including Orea, belVita, Chips Ahoy!, Cadbury, Honey Maid, Ritz, Triscuit, and Wheat Thins. Mondelez, however, isn’t backing down, having unveiled a rainbow-colored Oreo graphic in celebration of Pride Month.
The response on social media has been vigorous. Some jokingly congratulated LGBTQ folks for “finally” achieving “equality of commercialization,” while others saw the brand’s stand as something that should be enthusiastically applauded. The company’s rainbow Oreo has been shared on social media tens of thousands of times in less than 24 hours. That’s a significant amount of earned media for the company, which will translate into sales as long as the message reaches a receptive audience.
And that “as long as” is the danger implicit in making such public stands on social or political issues. While the company surely looked at polling data and the prevailing public feeling before making this move, failure to gather accurate information during those kinds of investigations can lead to a PR crisis.
It helps when a message of this kind comes with a more detailed statement from the brand, making a public impression. In this case, Kraft associate director of corporate affairs told the media, “Kraft Foods has a proud history of celebrating diversity and inclusiveness. We feel the Oreo ad is a fun reflection of our values… There has been a lot of buzz about the image, and it shows how relevant Oreo is to people even after 100 years…”
That’s certainly a positive take on the question of “how did this move land with the audience as a whole?” Many people who like the ad were emotionally touched, seeing it as caring and “beautiful,” rather than fun. However, those are still positive impressions. The real key is that the commercial did create a conversation around Oreo that had not previously been attached to the snack cookie until that commercial aired. So, in this case, rather than “Oreo” being “relevant,” it’s probably more accurate to say Oreo connected with an issue that matters to its customer base, took a risk, and now will see both the reward and the consequences.
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