|Let Go of My Eggo?
My nightly routine ended just like any other as I finished up the rest of my work and did a little cleaning afterwards. Working from home definitely has its perks of never having to face 5 o’clock traffic. Later, while making myself comfy on the couch, I grabbed the TV remote to completely relish in mind-numbing channel surfing amidst my precious and pristine plasmatic idiot box more commonly known as, Television. Ahhh, yes! This is what I’ve been waiting on all day. “Hey, a new season of Basketball Wives? I think I’ll stop right here”, I thought.
While indulging in reality TV and all its’ ridiculous glory, my attention is immediately peeked by what seems to be a cute commercial spearheaded by food giant, Kellogg’s. It appears to be a cool new advertisement for their Eggo waffles portraying an African American mother, daughter and son as the featured characters. The commercial depicts the son as being a picky eater who danced his way out of eating breakfast. “How cute”, I thought. Then suddenly, what began as a cute commercial turned into a black and white, 1940’s, Buckwheat, “Little Rascals”, Sambo skit in front of my very eyes. Was I dreaming? I had to turn around and ask the invisible guy in the corner if I was tripping. How can this be? There I was indulging in reality TV yet, I had the galls to be offended by an Eggo commercial? Oh, the irony and hypocrisy of it all! Was I being too sensitive?? More importantly, why was I so incredibly offended by something seemingly so innocent and cute? Given the fact that I come from a Market Research background, it was imperative for me to get to the bottom of why I felt so strongly about this new Eggo commercial. Plus, I was simply curious in the “specifics” as to why this advertisement evoked such a negative emotion inside me.
Here is the commercial via - Youtube:
The next day I feverishly grabbed my laptop and pulled the Eggo commercial up on Youtube to view again. Immediately, it became clear as to why this new Eggo ad came off to me as some kind of “1940’s, Buckwheat meets Sambo” parody skit. So, what was it? Okay, never mind the fact that there’s no father present in this family, MC Hammer’s “You Can’t Touch This” is somehow the choice of music for the ad since, you know, African Americans are being depicted but; the “picky eater” also danced to keep from eating his breakfast. Okay, let’s just try to ignore all of that because whether we realize it or not, black people dancing, shucking and jiving has been “the norm” in marketing strategies geared towards African Americans for decades. Nonetheless, It is my opinion that even the blatant, stereotypical depiction of an absent father and black kid dancing at the breakfast table, they both pale significantly in comparison to the “Buckwheat” like hair, and “bug eyed” expressions planted on the little girl’s face. This is extremely reminiscent of the roles and facial gestures African Americans portrayed during the Minstrel era. There’s a huge difference between the “look of shock” and plain ole stereotypical buffoonery and, quite frankly, buffoonery is what I saw in the little girl who, by the way, was clearly the center of the ad in my opinion. Again, I had to ask myself if I was being too overly sensitive or not.
Now, before I go any further, I want to point out the fact that I am very well aware of the “natural hair” look and its’ popularity within us African Americans. However, it is my feeling that there is no doubt in certain aspects of this Eggo commercial, the little girl’s hair was purposely combed to mimic a Buckwheat, Pickaninny persona. Not only that but, it appears the little girl is donning an afro wig. Eureka! This is what hit the nail on the head and essentially what bothered me the most about this Eggo advertisement. I thought, “Why is this little girl donning a WIG or is it simply horrendous hair styling?” Again, the fact I myself am African American, I feel that I can say with conviction that even if the Marketing Executives in charge of this ad were trying to achieve the “natural hair” look, they failed miserably. Moreover, the buffoonish facial gestures are the icing on the cake in my opinion. Let me also point out that I am well aware of the big fuss over Olympic Gold Medalist, Gabby Douglas, being subjected to harsh criticism mainly because of how she wore her hair while performing. Here was an African American Olympic gold medalist standing before the world making history and, the only thing people could focus on was her hair. In the world of Athletes alike, it is pretty difficult to keep up a neat, clean and perfect appearance with, I don’t know, all of the sweating, running, tumbling, jumping and all. As an athlete, messy hair is to be expected whether white or black. It is my feeling that in the world outside of being an athlete, whether “natural hair” or not, this “Buckwheat-like wig” worn by this adorable little girl in this Eggo ad simply isn’t acceptable.
Afterwards, I took screenshots of the actual commercial as it played using my iPhone and later emailed them to myself. I began researching old stereotypical black cartoons, commercials, movies, pictures and comedies from the Stepin Fetchit era and took screenshots of those as well. My findings were astonishing and pretty self-explanatory to say the least. Below, are 8 duplicate copies of the screenshots I pasted together using one of my iphone apps called “picstitch”. Picstitch is basically an app that allows you to combine multiple photos together in one photo. There is no trickery in these screenshot photos as they are taken straight from Google and Youtube. The 8 frames below represent what “I saw” in the advertisement after viewing it for the very first time, while lounging on my couch that fateful Monday night.
These eight frames represent what I actually saw as this “cute” Eggo commercial aired on my TV screen. Personally, I felt almost insulted because it came off so blatantly to me. These things stuck out to me like a bleeding sore thumb right off the bat! As I continued my research, I decided to read some of the comments listed under the ad and, just as I suspected, the majority of the comments spoke about the little girl and how cute she is. Clearly, there’s no denying this little girl is adorable however I simply could not ignore the obvious. Whomever the “brain” was behind this Marketing technique, almost succeeded in focusing the consumer’s attention on this adorable little girl and her saying, “Can’t touch this” at the end.
Well, what about the mother and dancing son? They seem pretty normal, no? I purposely left them out of the 8 frames because, in my opinion, the mother and son are merely “fillers” and distractions from what the consumer is really seeing. It is my belief that we, the consumers in general, have become so complacent with ads such as this that we now find them to be cute, adorable and funny all the while subconsciously ignoring and accepting these same old stereotypes. Hidden racism is still alive and well even more prevalent this day in age.
My next step was to test my findings out on my fiancé and get his honest thoughts and opinions on the matter. I chose him because he’s much unbiased, opinionated and never goes along with popular opinion. His thoughts are his thoughts no matter what popular opinion is. I wanted to know if he honestly felt I was being overly sensitive or just plain ridiculous. First, I asked if he’d seen the new Eggo commercial and what his thoughts were about it. Mind you, I did not show him any of the screenshots I made nor did I initially voice my opinion because again, I wanted him to use his own judgment. He answered that he had seen the ad and expressed how the little boy looked kind of odd dancing in such a manner and, like the youtube commenters, thought the little girl saying, “Can’t touch this” at the end was kind of cute. Once he finished, I expressed my thoughts concerning how negative the ad made me feel after which, he asked to view again to see if he would feel the same as I. After viewing the ad again, he slowly turned his head towards me and, with a stunned look on his face replied, “Wow! You are absolutely correct. This clearly looks like a Buckwheat wig on this little girl’s head and, why is she looking like that?” Meaning, why was she making “those” facial expressions? Like I mentioned before, there is a difference between “the look of shock” and overly exaggerated buffoonish behavior. It was as if I had done some sort of magic trick to the ad itself when all I did was simply express my opinion. Again, I found it to be astounding how he agreed with me in every aspect. Was it really necessary for this ad to depict the little girl looking “extra shocked” each and every time her brother danced away from the breakfast table? After the 2nd or 3rd time, shouldn’t his dancing be considered as normal? After all, the ad is entitled “Picky Eater”. I asked my fiancé a 2nd time if he felt I was being ridiculous which, he replied with a loud and resounding, “NO!”
My own personal dilemma with this new Eggo ad is the fact that I felt totally and completely hypocritical as I am someone who loves “reality TV” and all of its stereotypical, buffoonish glory. I find most Reality TV shows in 2013 to be entertaining even though, it isn’t very real at all. Some African Americans even refer to certain “Reality TV Shows” as the new Minstrel shows of the Millennium. They are filmed in the manner of documentaries but, unlike a documentary, the plots, drama and fights are scripted and edited into certain scenes. They’re also used as a vehicle in product placement for whatever’s hot, popular and extremely marketable in that moment. Reality TV is merely a means for non-actors to collect a check perpetuating a lifestyle that isn’t all that real. I realized that I myself, had become complacent and desensitized to the stereotypes as a whole on TV.
I decided to dig deeper and research even more information on Marketing strategies geared towards African Americans and came across a paper by Jamie Pleasant; Ph.D. of Clark-Atlanta School of Business Administration, submitted back in 2010. The paper explores the corporate blunders of African American Marketing Strategies and ways to avoid them. Interestingly, there was a mention of Kellogg’s in the paper and how they capitalized on the importance of African American father’s presence in the home by creating its’ “Weathering the Rain Together” advertisement featuring the Rice Krispies cereal brand. Clearly, the Marketing executives at Kellogg’s have veered away from the variables that matter most to African Americans such as, “fatherhood, marriage and family”. Hence, the absence of a father in their new Eggo advertisement.
Regardless of what’s seen on our precious and pristine plasmatic idiot boxes, African Americans hold family, love, fatherhood, sophistication and professionalism to a high regard in “Real” life. It is up us, the consumers, to voice our opinions on the matter and a marketer’s job to make sure an advertisement is done correctly.
Still, I couldn’t help but feel wary, conflicted and extremely hypocritical when deciding to blog about this new Eggo advertisement because, as I mentioned before; I am one of those women who sit in front of her TV screen every Monday night, anxiously awaiting the Monday night lineup of reality TV shows I refer to as, “Ratchet TV”. “Ratchet” is a term commonly used mostly by African Americans and is defined in the Urban Dictionary as “A diva, mostly from urban cities and ghettos, that has reason to believe she is every mans eye candy. Unfortunately, she's wrong.” Was I being bamboozled? Are we being bamboozled? Reality TV has taken on a life of its own since the inception of one of the first reality shows in 1989, such as, “Cops”. Almost always unfairly presenting the poor as being responsible for most crime in society while, ignoring the "white-collar crimes" that are typical of the more wealthy, “Cops” became a huge success and is considered to be entertaining even to this day. In 1992, MTV single handedly sent reality TV through the roof with the inception of “The Real World” and, VH-1 shot it into the stratosphere in 2006 with its inception of “Flavor of Love”. Now, reality TV stars are the new superstars instead of those who are professionally trained actors and actresses. Oh, the irony of it all.
In conclusion, the point of this Blog post is to simply remind everyone to stop for a moment and truly pay attention to the fodder being shoveled into our minds on a daily basis. From the news, to movies, to advertisements, and cartoons, ask yourself this question. Has TV really changed all that much since the Minstrel days? I do not nor have I ever professed myself to be any kind of “Black Militant” or “activist” even. I am merely someone who felt it necessary to voice her opinion about this new Eggo advertisement.
Lastly, I will leave you with two Youtube videos I ran across during my research which explore the history of racism and stereotypes in advertising submitted by Youtube users, alexanderxiv and Spirit and Logic.
You be the judge……
History of Racism on Television
Racism and Stereotypes in Advertising
(This video will redirect to youtube as it contains Sony ATV publishing)
 Jamie Pleasant; Ph.D., Clark Atlanta University School of Business Administration, “CORPORATE BLUNDERS OF AFRICAN AMERICAN MARKETING STRATEGIES AND WAYS TO AVOID NEGATIVE PUBLICITY”
 www.black-face.com; “The History of Blackface”
 www.youtube.com; “Screen Legends: Little Rascals Trailer” submitted by Youtube user, “Topicsent”
 www.google.com Image search of Hattie McDaniel, via – www.huffingtonpost.com “Vickilyn Reynolds Resurrects Hattie McDaniel for the Hollywood Stage” March 18, 2013.
 www.google.com Image search of “Buckwheat”, “The piccaninny stereotype|Abagond” via- www.wordpress.com
 www.fathersandfamilies.com “Fathers and Families Praises Kellogg’s Company for ‘Weathering Rain Together’ Rice Krispies TV Ad” May 5, 2010.
 www.google.com Image search of “Story of Little Black Sambo”, “ Bannerman, Helen Story of Little Black Sambo” via – HeritageBookWorkshop.com
 www.youtube.com ; “History of Racism on Television”, submitted by youtube user, “Spirit and Logic”
 www.youtube.com; “Racism and Stereotypes in Advertising”, submitted by youtube user, “Alexanderxiv”