General Mill's interracial Cheerios ad may have attracted some racist scorn online, but audience testing by analytics company Ace Metrix shows the 30-second spot achieved high "attention" and "likability" scores, especially with females.
The ad didn't appeal to males 50+, but Jonathan Symonds, Ace Metrix executive vice president of marketing, wrote in a blog post that over the past year, "males 50+ have the lowest scores in cereals - close to 50 points below their age/gender counterparts."
Still, the 30-second version is second-highest rated ad in cereal in 2013 and sixth among 50 ads tested the last 12 months, according to Ace Metrix. The 15-second version also scored well.
The ad has garnered nearly 2.7 million YouTube views, with 34,391 "likes" and 1,833 "dislikes" so far.
After the ad debuted last week, the inflammatory comments led Cheerios to disable commenting on YouTube. AdWeek reported that some of the comments made reference to Nazis, "troglodytes" and "racial genocide."
"Where is this shrill voice of intolerance coming from and why does it seem so loud?" Symonds wrote. "Well because online conversations are just that - louder, more shrill, more polarizing than what we see in everyday society. This is not a new finding. This is the double-edged sword that is social media and it highlights the challenges of using social media to make decisions for your brand. "
A spokesman for Cheerios said the company is looking into Ace Metrix's findings. Last week, Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Cheerios, said in a statement, "Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all."
Ace Metrix had over 1,000 respondents to a survey and studied the words in 529 respondents' reactions, or "verbatims." The words "cute", "good", and "cheerios" seemed to reflect a positive reaction to the ad.
The ad scored best with African-Americans, who collectively scored gave it a score of 721, followed by Asian Americans and Hispanics. "While African-Americans and Hispanics generally award advertising higher scores than their ethnic counterparts - the 721 score is 100 higher than average for African-Americans," Ace Metrix said.
Of its survey sample, 9.5 percent were African Americans, short of the U.S. Census estimate of 13.1 percent of the country's total population.
"African Americans generally score advertising higher than their counterparts - significantly so, but this ad was in the stratosphere for them - registering north of 700 for both the :15 and the :30," Symonds wrote.