Yoghurt- and dessert-maker Müller Rice appears to have missed the memo on avoiding racist tropes when it released its new advertisement (above). The video shows five bears, with hairstyles commonly associated with African-Americans – dreadlocks, an afro, flat top and cornrows – rapping and dancing to a 1995 hip-hop classic I Got Five On It by Luniz.
In case the reference wasn’t obvious, fake accents and “bling” have been added to the “5 Grain Crew” to make the racial caricature glaringly blatant. The bears also have names like “Grizzle Wheat”, “Top Spelt”, “Mad Millet”, “Big Barley” and “Tasty B” (who has his own Twitter account) along with their own biographies (which they have now removed). Metro UK reported these as having references to Jamaica, Kingston and “pimping” cars in America.
As always, Twitter users were the first to rise to the occasion and haul the company over the coals:
Even Lee Jasper, the Senior Policy Advisor on Equalities of the former Mayor of London, complained about the advertisement:
A Müller Rice spokesperson apologised for any offence caused, and defended the campaign to Metro UK saying, “The advert is intended as a light-hearted tribute to classic hip hop videos. ‘It was never our intention to cause offence or make light of any serious issues, and we apologise to anyone who feels this way.’”
Despite the backlash, the company continued to push the campaign and organised live events with the bears in London.