Today, African nations collectively produce around 71% of the world’s cocoa (Martin). Given the roots of cacao, it is interesting to see how modern companies choose to portray these roots or ignore them completely in their marketing of chocolate products. Chocolate companies have had varying degrees of success incorporating these roots, and it seems that more often than not, been faced with criticisms and controversy when doing so. The decisions companies make have far reaching consequences – they can shape the population’s perception of chocolate, socializing them to certain views or they can raise awareness for certain issues, purposely or not. We will look at the depiction of chocolate’s roots in two advertisements, one that perpetuates the stereotype and one that we created in order to defy it. Present day chocolate advertisements invoke historically-weighted, caricatured depictions of the relationship between chocolate’s roots and chocolate’s present consumer.
Conguitos is a Spanish chocolate product similar to M&M’s from the Lacasa compay, chocolate covered peanut ball shaped confections. According to the Lacasa website, their description is:
“We are the Conguitos. And we are very good, dressed in chocolate with a body made of nuts. Roasted peanuts with black chocolate! Very super delicious!” (translated from Spanish)
This sense that the Conguitos are animate, almost human-like creatures is perpetuated through their video advertisements as well.
The cartoon figures of the Conguitos seem to be a stereotypical representation of a Native/Indigenous culture. The Conguitos are primitive creatures, and as they march onto the scene carrying spears, drums and tribal music play in the background, adding to the Native mystique. The brown color of the Conguitos and the exaggerated mouths portray people of African descent, similar to how blackface was used by minstrels to the same effect in America. In contrast, the light-skinned hand that picks off the Conguitos is the white consumer, and as evidenced by the final scene of the light-skinned woman, the typical Spanish consumer that this ad is targeting. Given these differences, it is natural to question the starkly different roles each race plays, and the power dynamic between the two. The African, who is the largest producer of chocolate, is the primitive subservient to the civilized Western consumer, who is literally picking the scared chocolate peoples straight from the jungles of Africa.
In response to that advertisement, we created an advertisement to address the use of chocolate as a human and the relationship between chocolate and the consumer.
Like the authentic Conguitos advertisement, our advertisement utilizes cartooning as a way to express more pronounced caricatures. However, we do so in a very different way. Our advertisement focuses on the round shape of the chocolate confection and recasts the candy as a soccer ball, instead of as a human. Instead of depicting only two different races, this advertisement shows many distinct skin tones and even species, emphasizing the inclusivity that the soccer ball is bringing to the community.
The creatures in this ad are all smiling and showing happy emotions, as well as their desire for the chocolate soccer ball, as seen from the hearts in their eyes. The unequal power dynamic between light and dark is no longer evident in this advertisement because the soccer ball is an objective inanimate object and the diverse group of people are now working together to catch the chocolate soccer ball. This advertisement challenges the assumptions of Africans and the unequal dualism often used to portray the relationship between Africa and the Western world (Leissle 133).
Through the universality of soccer (or football) as a sport, this image appeals to consumers from all backgrounds. This advertisement depicts chocolate’s roots not as the African jungle, but instead of the multicultural world we live in today. Chocolate too is no longer a local commodity, but instead a global one, as its supply chain and production involves people and firms from Africa, and South America to America and Europe (Robertson 9). This advertisement reflects the global roots of cocoa with its use of multicultural people.
Although the first Conguitos ad is no longer running on TV, the problems with the marketing are still present. As seen on the company website, Lacasa is still trying to give the inanimate candies life. Current advertisements feature the Conguitos with faces that have exaggerated mouths, not too altered from when the original.
As consumers, we should be aware of the subliminal messages these advertisements send, and question them, especially, as in this case, when they represent power dynamics that perpetuate inequality.
Conguitos Advertisement: https://youtu.be/wFOXOeBbhD8
Soccer ball image (edited): http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Simple_Soccer_Ball.svg
Conguitos 1Kg Bag: https://www.tienda.lacasa.es/672-pos_thickbox/conguitos-negros-1-kg.jpg
Martin, Carla. AAAS 119x Lecture 15: Modern Day Slavery. March 25, 2015.
“Conguitos Negros – 1 Kg.” Lacasa. Lacasa, n.d. Web. 8 Apr. 2015. <https://www.tienda.lacasa.es/compra-conguitos/71-conguitos-negros-1-kg.html>.
Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24.2 (2012): 121-39. Web.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. 1-131. Print.