In 2013, Cheerios released an innocuous commercial featuring an interracial family at the breakfast table. Within a few days, YouTube disabled the comments section for the video after viewers made references to Nazis, “troglodytes,” and “racial genocide.”
While it seems like Americans have become more open-minded on race and gender over time, it’s clear that not everyone likes to see different types of people in commercials. However, a new study suggests that the younger you are, the more receptive you’ll be to diversity in ads.
According to a September 2016 survey by Barkley and Futurecast, more than two-thirds of U.S. internet users like ads that show “real people,” not just gender stereotypes from the past. While 60 percent of Gen Z believes progressive gender norms make it easier for people to be themselves, only 52 percent of the baby boomer population feels the same way. And the majority of boomers do not like seeing ads that show diverse types of families.
This demographic split goes beyond just advertising. A July 2016 Harris Poll found that 68 percent of millennials said they prefer watching movies and TV shows with multicultural casts, and 65 percent would shop more at a retailer offering a wide selection of multicultural products. Those figures dipped to 44 and 32 percent, respectively, for respondents at least 65 years old.
“We’re seeing a more diverse and open society, especially among millennials,” Quim Gil, head brand planner at ad agency Richards/Lerma, said in an interview with eMarketer. “We know that these new, modern consumers share an endless curiosity and openness to new cultures, no matter what their skin color. They want to learn new languages and hear different opinions—they don’t want to be siloed.”
Accepting cultural differences has somehow become a polarizing topic. But as younger generations demonstrate, marketers should not view it as an optional ad tactic. Instead, they should be excited to celebrate diversity as something fundamentally American.