"Let's not pretend racism doesn't exist. Let's not pretend that we've come so far. Let's be conscious of and appreciate the noise, and the negativity, because there's so much work to be done," he said in a telephone interview from Los Angeles.
Cheerios is not the first brand to show a black and white couple with a biracial child. A TV commercial for Blockbuster recently featured a white mom, black dad and biracial son enjoying a rental on the couch. As far back as 2009, Philadelphia Cream Cheese and its "spread a little joy" campaign had a black man and white woman (no wedding bands) enjoying a bagel breakfast in bed.
In another along those lines, a black woman is shown kissing a white man as the two stir a bit of Philadelphia Cream Cheese into a pasta sauce and kiss.
Nina Barton, senior marketing director for Philadelphia Cream Cheese in Glenview, Ill., said in an email that the 140-year-old brand also believes its advertising "should reflect what American families look like today."
She added: "While we did receive comments, both positive and negative, in response to our national campaign, it didn't influence our future casting decisions."
In the case of Cheerios, Ries said, the benefits outweigh the risks.
"It's important for brands to take risks in line with what their brand is about," she said. "In this case Cheerios is the first food of children everywhere."
AP Food Industry Writer Candice Choi in New York contributed to this report.
- Many Mormon missionaries who return home...
- Better than a raise: The smallest thing you...
- Storm along East Coast dumps snow, snarls...
- 50 things you might not know about 15 of your...
- Amish school shooter's kin: Horror, then healing
- Health care debate about presidential trust,...
- The American Dream is still alive for 20...
- Nelson Mandela's faith made him a worldwide...
- Many Mormon missionaries who return... 117
- Judge orders Colo. cake-maker to serve... 115
- Utahns react to death of Nelson Mandela 27
- Space and religion: How believers view... 23
- Obama administration will allow green... 17
- Expelling Santa from school? Holiday... 17
- 'Sound of Music' alive for 18.5 million... 13
- Health care debate about presidential... 13