General Mills Responds To LGBT Critics – Sets Record Straight

Last week I posted my displeasure at General Mills and RE/MAX for pulling their advertising dollars from ABC Family’s drama, Pretty Little Liars, in response to pressure from the Florida Family Association regarding the lesbian character on the teen-focused programming.  Rather than rehashing the erroneous and deprecating depiction from the socially conservative Florida-based group, take a look here.

In response to the backlash, General Mills released a statement on their website, and representatives from the corporation also responded personally to me, and I am sure other bloggers across the web.  In an attempt to clarify what General Mills feels is a misinterpretation of their position, Jeff Hagen, Director of Consumer services for General Mills, and whose initial correspondence was posted on the FFA website, emailed me with this response:

Thank you for your email, and for giving us the opportunity to respond.

As you have read, General Mills is not a sponsor of the television program Pretty Little Liars.  Last week, we received an inquiry from an organization to advertisers on that program – and we responded that the program is not one that we sponsor.  That organization posted our response online, under the headline: “General Mills says NO to Pretty Little Liars Lesbian Content.”

That is and was incorrect.  That was not what we said.

General Mills does not make advertising placement decisions based on the sexual orientation of characters.  Our decision relative to this program was based on audience demographics and program content, which has evolved into areas such as stalking and student-teacher relationships.  The sexual orientation of characters was not a factor.  Nor was our decision the result of external pressure from any group.

Your reaction is understandable.  Our response created the opportunity for misinterpretation, because we did not explain our reasoning.

But the sexual orientation of characters was not a factor in our decision.  That is the truth.
Again, thank you for giving us the opportunity to explain.

Jeff Hagen
Director, Consumer Services
General Mills

I appreciate Mr, Hagen, and thus General Mills, for responding to me personally.  I also appreciate General Mills’ desire to clarify their position regarding the Florida Family Association’s claim that the corporation pulled advertising dollars from ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars due to the sexual orientation of one of the characters and the other ludicrous accusations from the director of the Florida based, anti-gay group.

Yes, the posting of Mr. Hagen’s email on the FFA website left many of us confused as to why General Mills, listed by the Human Rights Campaign as one of the most diverse and amiable companies for LGBT employment, would base its advertising commitments on what is obviously an inflammatory depiction of ABC Family’s drama by a group historically non-accepting of gays and other marginal groups in our society.

I completely understand General Mills’ target demographic because I am the bulls eye in their marketing research.  I make a well informed consumer choice every time I walk through the doors of Safeway.  I am a true believer in family dinner, and as many corporations vying for our consumer dollars should know, families in America, and around the world for that matter, come in as many different appearances as there are General Mills cereal brands.  The face of my family around the Saturday morning breakfast table with a big bowl of Cascadian Farm granola is me, my partner of over a decade, and our daughter.

In the current political climate, families of LGBT origin are often demonized by such groups as the Florida Family Association, and their parent organizations, that seem to have a very narrow and bastardized definition of family.  For that reason, these organizations are continually on my radar as should their rhetoric be on the radar of companies such as General Mills.  You (General Mills) caution in your statement that “things may not be what they appear”, but by allowing these borderline hate groups to speak, uncontested, for General Mills, you are opening yourself up to unwarranted publicity and its monetary consequences.  Quite frankly, we as a group may be limited in our Constitutional rights, but our collective buying power numbers in the millions, and we exercise those rights with solidarity.

Again, I thank you for your statement.  I invite my readers to make up their own minds as to how they will proceed with the new information.  In the interim, it is my sincere hope that continued dialogue between General Mills and the LGBT community will continue.  True change may come slowly, but it always begins with a conversation.

For I, too, have a dream…that one day, even in the state in Florida (Mississippi or Indiana or Colorado), I will see representation of my family depicted in a Cheerios commercial.