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Advertisers that embrace diversity

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A new commercial for Swiffer is just the latest to feature an interracial couple. And this particular ad also includes a man who lost part of his arm to cancer. A family like this used to be off-limits to advertisers who instead played it safe so they could avoid offending potential customers. But that's changing in a big way.

For nearly 90 years, Honey Maid has sold graham crackers. And for nearly 90 years, those of us eating Honey Maid's graham crackers have continuously updated our definition of what we find socially acceptable.

"It used to be that advertisers were reluctant to jump into controversial waters, but we've changed the whole culture and now advertisers need to get attention and they want to be associated with leading-edge causes," said Adam Hanft, a brand strategist. In that respect, Hanft sees Honey maid's latest ad showing two gay parents, an interracial couple, and a father with tattooed arms as the new industry norm.

"It's become pretty mainstream, so advertisers are jumping ahead a little bit but their risk of not being in the conversation is greater than making some people a little angry at you," he said.

Coca-Cola felt some of that anger following a Super Bowl ad to the tune of a multilingual rendition of "America the Beautiful."

Cheerios and Swiffer each elected to use interracial couples in two of their recent commercials.

Those to whom we spoke thought that was pretty great.

"I think it's true of the real estate business," one person told us. "I think it's true in the major consumer industries. I think it's true of most marketing you see these days."

Another said: "They're pushing the boundaries. I think that's very important."

And another said: "I applaud any time they market toward diversity. Because we live in a city where diversity's king."

And because of that, and because we asked people to state their opinions on television, no one on the street would tell us they wanted to see less diversity in advertising. The companies making these ads just hope the next generation of money-spenders can identify with the situations and relationships ad companies are now portraying.

"You need to bring in young consumers," Hanft said. "You need the customers of the future."

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