We’ve all seen the advertisements of women seductively taking a bite from a bar of chocolate. Through televisions and other forms of media, chocolate companies have advertised their products through various means. Because of the diversity of roles chocolate can take, advertisements can take on many different forms. For instance, Robertson writes that “[a]dvertising has created, and reinforced, particular uses and identities for each type of product; so, whilst a chocolate bar may be consumed as a source of concentrated energy…, a box of chocolates may be bought as a gift” (19). Because it would be difficult to go through the range of chocolate advertisements that utilize some running stereotype (simply because there are too many), we will focus on a recent Snickers ad. And by creating our own advertisement for Snickers, we can more clearly show the differences between what chocolate really is (simply a sugary treat made from cocoa beans and other ingredients) and what chocolate is advertised to be (a good that plays on the stereotypes of a specific population and gives you something more than the sum of its ingredients).
The above video is a Snickers advertisement that discriminates on both gender and age by utilizing a pointed and sharp sense of humor as a veil.
While Robertson speaks about the ways chocolate companies target women as their consumer by feminizing the product (20), Snickers instead attempts to target men (but still utilizes the gender stereotypes progressed through the history of chocolate advertisements). Snickers does this by using the catch-phrase, and now new motto of Snickers, “you are not yourself when you are hungry.” As the advertisement runs, there is a hungry man who is pictured as Betty White, an angry and outspoken elderly woman who is also frail and weak. This message inherently signals to the audience the connections among hunger (something we do not want), whininess (something we want to avoid), and women (someone who is weak). The advertisement specifically chose the sport of American football to highlight this point. American football is known as a “manly” sport. Would the advertisement work as “well” as the producers intended if the hungry man was playing frisbee or pingpong?
The above photograph is another advertise of Snickers that plays off of the “manly man” stereotype. Mr. T was used in an advertisement that contrasted his power and aggressiveness to that of another man. This advertisement was then removed from airing after receiving backlash from the gay community (The Guardian). The advertisement can be found below.
Along with stereotyping of men and women, the Snickers football commercial can be accused of ageism. The hungry man not only becomes a woman but also just as importantly becomes an elderly woman. This advertisement is surely not targeted toward the older generation. It can be assumed that the chocolate companies do not pursue these older consumers because the chocolate industry is a brand-loyal industry. Many of those who are elderly will already have a chocolate that they prefer.
The image below is the still image advertisement that my group created that shows you what Snickers really is, it’s just a chocolate bar with calories that give you the energy you didn’t have before. It does not utilize any stereotype that affects men, women, or age. It gives off the impression, and the sole impression, of chocolate giving you the energy you need when you are tired (maybe even enough energy to allow you to score a touchdown!).
Snickers focuses on its appeal to men by classifying in their advertisements what men “should” be doing or how men “should” act. And to accomplish this aim, Snickers uses women as the opposite of men, which in turn makes women into objects of weakness and undesirability. This is a form of polarization that many companies utilize. It is not only found with man/woman or old/young through advertisements of major brands but also can be found directly on the product itself as explained by Leissle in her critique of Divine Chocolates. Leissle points out that “the binaries that underlie the modernity narrative – primitive/civilized, traditional/modern, underdeveloped/developed – continue to permeate discursive representations of African and shape the forms of its ‘development'” (122). The effects of advertising are much larger than simply the images we see. They impact not only how we subconsciously function but also progress negative representations through generations, making stereotypes harder to eliminate.
FriedmanTech. “Snickers – Betty White (Super Bowl 2010 Commercial) – [HD]”. Web. 7 Feb 2010. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkAnLtqWDhc
Get Some Nuts. “Snickers Mr T – Speedwalker July 08″. Web. 18 July 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkT_d2OTgv0
Leissle, Kristy. 2012. Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 121-139
Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. pp. 1-131
Sweney, Mark.”Mr T Snickers ad pulled for being offensive to gay people”. The Guardian. Web. 28 July 2008.