Barilla Pasta stand on gays in advertising counter to advertising trend
The furor continues over the comments Barilla Pasta’s CEO made about not wanting gays in his company’s ads and that people who don’t like that are free to eat another pasta. It has set off boycotts on some fronts, calls to buy more of it on others, and expressions of dismay among others about boycotting a product over a CEO’s views. But Advertising Age’s EJ Schultz adds a fact: Chairman Guido Barilla’s comment “runs counter to inclusiveness trend in advertising.”
But in the U.S., even the most classic of brands in Middle America have made the calculation that it pays to embrace non-traditional families. Consider General Mills-owned Betty Crocker, which this summer hosted same-sex couples in Minnesota for a wedding cake tasting, and then publicized the event on its corporate blog, while gaining plenty of local media attention.
Earlier in the year, Cheerios, also owned by General Mills, featured a mixed-race couple in an ad, drawing a racially tinged outcry from some YouTube commenters. But most of America loved it: According to data from Ace Metrix, the ad tested the highest of six new Cheerios ads this year and garnered attention and likeability scores 9% and 11% “above the current 90-day norm for cereals.”
In addition embracing non-traditional family units, some brands in the U.S. are pushing the envelope with edgier campaigns that bypass the traditional smiling family approach. For instance, Ragu got plenty of attention last year with a spot that referenced the sexual habits of parents. The Milano cookie brand, which is owned by Campbell Soup Co., is running a campaign called “My Yummy Secret” that references a boozing suburban housewife. And General Mills’ Green Giant recently launched an ad whose storyline involves a spying husband who suspects his wife of having an affair.
Of course, Barilla is not entirely taking the smiling-family-around-the-table approach. This ad below, called “don’t ruin the moment,” features a couple who appear to meet at some sort of formal party or wedding. Moments later, they get romantic. And as the suggestive spot ends, they are about to share a kiss over a strand of pasta. The couple is heterosexual.
Will a boycott succeed? More from Advertising Age:
David Diamond, a consumer packaged-goods industry consultant said that while Mr. Barilla’s comments were “thoughtless” and “counter to trends,” he doesn’t expect much consumer backlash at grocery shelves. “This is something that will be talked about in creative communities and in gay communities. But is anybody going to bother to boycott Barilla pasta over this? Probably not,” he said.