Nabisco is fighting hate with love, and the end result is an unequivocal PR win.
The East Hanover, N.J.-based snack-food company, a unit of Mondelēz International Inc. (NASDAQ:MDLZ), has a huge viral hit on its hands with its latest commercial for Honey Maid graham crackers. The spot, dubbed “Love,” takes on homophobic critics of a previous Honey Maid commercial, “This Is Wholesome,” which featured a montage of various types of families, including families with gay parents.
“This Is Wholesome,” which debuted in early March, attracted what can best be described as an expected amount of backlash from conservative Christians -- including, of course, the group One Million Moms, which took issue with its gay-friendly, pro-diversity message, calling it “an attempt to normalize sin.” What’s different this time is how Nabisco handled the criticism. Rather than simply turn the other cheek, as companies often do, Nabisco took the negative feedback and literally turned it into something positive. The “Love” commercial, released on Thursday, features two artists creating a giant paper sculpture out of printed-out tweets from Nabisco haters. (“Horrible, NOT ‘Wholesome,’” one tweet read.) The spot is interspersed with subtitles explaining the motivation behind the effort:
“On March 10, 2014, Honey Maid launched ‘This Is Wholesome,’ a commercial that celebrates all families. Some people didn’t agree with our message, so we asked two artists to take the negative comments and turn them into something else.”
The heartstring-pulling commercial ends by pointing out that positive responses to “This Is Wholesome” outweighed the negative ones by more than tenfold. Depending on how cynical you are, the “Love” spot is either a brave commitment to inclusiveness, an ingenious bit of marketing, or maybe a little of both. While it’s hard to imagine Nabisco didn’t anticipate some backlash to the “This Is Wholesome” spot (we saw a similar reaction last year when a Cheerios commercial featured a mixed-race couple), it’s also hard to fault a company for having the guts to follow through with its pro-diversity message, particularly at a time when too few companies want to risk the potential PR hassles that come with taking a decisive stand.
Either way, it’s all adding up to a flood of great press for Nabisco -- and likely great sales as well. So far, responses to the “Love” spot on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have been overwhelmingly positive.
“So refreshing to see this,” one commenter beamed. “Turned my bad day into a great one.”
“Thank you for helping squash the hate in the world,” wrote another.
Others expressly stated their intention to reward Nabisco’s goodwill in the form of cash.
@HoneyMaidSnacks Just saw your response to all the hatred. LOVE IS LOVE. I will go out and buy a few boxes of Teddy Grahams.
â€” Joanna Bruggeman (@joannabruggeman) April 4, 2014
This isn’t the first time Nabisco has taken a stand on gay rights. In June 2012, the company released an ad featuring a rainbow-colored Oreo cookie next to the headline “Pride.”
The image, posted to Oreo’s Facebook page, also sparked the typical backlash and boycott threats from conservatives, but Nabisco, then a unit of Kraft Foods Group Inc. (NASDAQ:KRFT), didn’t back down. A spokesperson for Kraft told ABC News at the time that the company has a “proud history of celebrating diversity and inclusiveness. We feel the Oreo ad is a fun reflection of our values.”
In other words: That’s how the cookie crumbles, haters.
Watch the full commercial, “This Is Wholesome,” below.