Honey Maid’s graham cracker ad This is Wholesome, celebrating family life in all its diversity drew negative feedback from LGBT haters; Honey Maid then addressed this head-on in an inspirational new commercial about the power of Love. Depiction of a single-sex family angered a lot of the viewers and they wrote in with spiteful remarks. Instead of panicking that their campaign had back-fired, the company brilliantly rose to the occasion by confronting the bias.
Tackling the negativity with creativity and emotional intelligence has had a remarkable and gratifying response. The new ad on YouTube generated over one and a half million views on its first day alone.
The original 30 second This is Wholesome video showed both single-sex and mixed race families enjoying their existences as happy family units. There was also a single dad, a military family and a family of rockers. The concept was indeed wholesome. The idea of what constitutes a “family” may change with the time, but everyone can go on enjoying their graham crackers. Sweet and simple. As the tagline put it, “Everday wholesome snacks for every wholesome family.”
Leaping to the barricades with their sensitivities outraged came right-wing groups like One Million Moms. They said they were “highly offended” and that the wholesome images disrespected American families by supporting the “homosexual agenda.” The American Decency Organization compared Nabisco, the parent company, to Satan himself.
The evangelical right were presumably deeply challenged by the use of the word “wholesome” which it thinks it has the copyright on as well as by the imagery.
The modern family as defined by Honey Maid was a source of mass disapproval and the tweets and the comments came flooding back. Cleverly, Honey Maid saved them all, and printed them out. They soon had an impressive stockpile. However, they also had another pile. The tower of positive comments. These outnumbered the haters by ten times. What they did next was genius.
The commissioned two artists and left them in an empty studio with a hot glue gun. The artists got to work. They were Linsey Burrit and Crystal Grover, both aged 30, a collaborative duo who work under the name INDO. At the beginning of the response ad, they are seen rolling the negative comments into scrolls and various words can be picked out as they carefully compose the tubes of paper. “DO NOT APPROVE!” jumps out, as does “Horrible” and “Disgusting.”
At the end of the patient process they appear to walk away, and what is left behind is a beautiful paper collage featuring the word “Love.” At that point it appears they have completed their task.
The voiceover then goes on to explain how the positivity outweighed the prejudice. The artists return and get to work again. Slowly the room fills, and the word “Love” is surrounded by the ten times as many delighted comments. Now words and phrases like “makes my heart happy,” “beautiful thing” and “family is family” are the ones to be briefly spotted as the scrolls accumulate.
Hate is turned to Love and Love is surrounded by support and affirmation. It is a very profound and heart-warming message. The proof, the voiceover tells the viewer, is that there is only thing that matters for all families, and it leaves the “Love” sculpture to speak for itself.
Honey Maid were very careful with their selection and ran all the messages through “linguistic resource classification” to ensure no comments were mis-read, for example, a “so not beautiful” taken to be read as a positive. To be double-sure, the artists re-read each one before they assembled the artwork.
Of course, Honey Maid want to sell crackers and they are in the business of doing so, they are not out there to promote social justice. It is hopefully a sign of the times that they can take this brave stand and sell even more crackers as a result. As a barometer of consumer attitudes, marketers will react to and then help steer change.
By using an art installation to spell out a message of Love, Honey Maid has brilliantly shamed and out-smarted the haters in this captivating advert.