Challenging Domesticity in Chocolate Milk Advertising

The following image is a still shot from a Nesquik commercial showing a mother feeding her children Nesquik chocolate milk. The advertisement presents the chocolate milk as wholesome, nutritious, and pointedly a product of good motherly parenting. This message is certainly not new, and in fact represents a dominant message in chocolate advertising through the later half of the 20th century and still today (Robertson). Emma Robertson in Chocolate, women and empire explores and reports on this trend and the stereotypical portrayal of women as homemaker.

Still shot from a NESQUIK commercial
Still shot from a NESQUIK commercial (1)

An advertisement created as juxtaposition (below), shows a woman consuming chocolate milk in a different setting. Here two women are in a business meeting, and Nesquik is placed as a substitute for coffee. This woman could be the very same woman as in the Nesquik commercial. She could be a mother and a wife, but she also has responsibilities outside of the home. She needs fuel herself, and Nesquik is her chosen drink for such fuel throughout her day at work.

Remake of the NESQUIK commercial - Rachael Cornelius & Leah Gaffney
Remake of the NESQUIK commercial

Robertson emphasizes that portrayal of women in the domestic sphere dominates chocolate advertising, and has for decades. She mentions that women are sometimes, but rarely, featured “outside the domestic context as paid workers” (Robertson 20). To drive her point, Robertson uses Rowntree advertising as a case study. She presents a 1951 advertising brief: “any technique by which we can appeal to the mother’s concern for the well-being of her family or her related anxiety about being a successful mother and winning the loyalty and gratitude of her husband and children might serve as a vehicle to make her think of Rowntree’s Cocoa in the way we want her to think of it” (Robertson 20-21). Rowntree ads, no different from the Nesquik advertisement above, appeal to a woman in her motherly capacity, emphasizing that feeding children chocolate milk is an act of good, loving care. Perhaps this tactic is a bit old? Mothers will undoubtedly put the well-being of their children as paramount. Marketing to that is smart, but the concept has become trite. The reaction advertisement attempts to modernize the portrayal of a woman. In the response ad, chocolate milk still appeals to a female consumer, but instead appeals to her personal needs as an independent woman with responsibilities other than childcare.

This modernization echoes some sentiments of Divine chocolate advertisements, which feature female cocoa farmers in glamorized photos. Kristy Leissle describes this as a “remodeling” of women as “ideal development stewards” (Leissle 131). A similar rebranding is seen in the Nesquik advertisements (one true and one created) above. In both cases, the remodeling attempts to modernize the woman. “Unfettered by husband and children, the Divine women are never essentialized as reproductive labourers. As such, they do not seem responsible for anyone’s development but their own…” (Leissle 132). The Divine commercials feature the women alone, just as the recreated Nesquik commercial features women without children. But this does not intend to diminish the other aspects of a woman’s life; it simply celebrates their importance in another setting. Leissle addresses this: “Although the women are farmers, they are not shown farming cocoa. Instead they hold pieces of chocolate – the luxury food made from the fruit that they grow” (Leissle 128). This association does not strip the woman of her occupation as farmer, but shows her with status, strength, and independence. Similarly, in the recreated Nesquik commercial, although the woman may be a mother, she is not shown caring for her children.

Thus, the recreation of the Nesquik commercial attempts to break the banal, repetitive messaging of chocolate advertisements (selling to women as homemakers) with a refreshing portrayal of a modern woman.

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Below are similar images of other Nesquik commercials, showing the continued use of the same marketing technique: appealing to women as mothers and homemakers.

NESQUIK commerical
NESQUIK commercial (2)
NESQUIK commercial (3)
NESQUIK commercial (3)

Works Cited

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine

Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies24 (2): 121-139

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. pp. 1-131

NESQUIK commercials:

1) “Nesquik commercial with Bret Loehr.” Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEHdT2Ycto0

2) Retrieved from http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/tv-commercials/nesquik-bangkok-4680405/

3) Retrieved from http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7nvU/nesquik-chocolate-bunny-ears

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