Naomi Campbell and Chocolate

In the ad below, Cadbury compares its new chocolate bar to model Naomi Campbell, saying “Move over Naomi, there’s a new diva in town”.  Though the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that “the commercial was likely to be understood to refer to Naomi Campbell’s reputation for ‘diva-style’ behavior rather than her race” (Daily Mail), both comparisons nevertheless present problems.  To combat this ad in two ways, its branding of women as divas and of African Americans as chocolate, we created a new advertisement with key phrasing differences that remove any potential race or gender discrimination.


                This purple Cadbury ad, widely distributed in 2011, refers to Naomi Campbell, the famed supermodel .  The ad directly compares Campbell to a diva, telling her to “move over” for a new diva, the Cadbury chocolate bar.  The implication here is quite clear.  Simply, Naomi Campbell is a diva.  In this sense, the word diva is used to mean an extremely talented but very temperamental female.  A diva is someone who likes to be pampered and indulged, beautified and treated like a princess.  By comparing their new chocolate bar to a diva, Cadbury hopes to give the impression that their chocolate bar is the most luxurious, most delicious chocolate bar out there.  However, by doing so, they further the idea that women are divas.  Though being a diva is good in that it is defined to mean exceptionally talented, it carries the unfortunate connotation of also being extremely spoiled and almost mercurial.  Thus this ad falls into the classic chocolate ad tendency of defining women as emotional and subject to giving into their every last desire.  Like most chocolate ads, “it associate[s] chocolate with luxury, women, and moral taboos” (Fahim 15). By changing the word “diva” to “star” in our ad, we eliminate the emotional portrayal of women and retain the idea of excellence.  If we were to keep Campbell in our ad (which we eventually do not), we could make a convincing case for her status as a star instead of as a diva.  Campbell is one of the most successful models of her time and is constantly in the public eye – both qualities that would identify her as a star. Another change we made to this effect is to substitute the word “revolutionary” for “pampered” (in the lower right corner of the ad).  The word pampered furthers the emotional and temperamental association started by diva and classifies women as people who need to be given gifts and have their desires met.  “Revolutionary” instead enhances Cadbury’s message that they are introducing a new product that is going to change the market because of its excellence.


                The implication that Campbell is a diva is clear from the ad, but the more controversial portion of the ad is the possible comparison of Campbell to chocolate because of her skin color.  Cambpell is of African descent and has a skin tone that would be classified by most as black, though of course there are a range of skin tones that are considered to be black. By specifically choosing Campbell as the diva to refer to in the ad, Cadbury adds the “exotic” and “magical” air to their chocolate described by Roberston in “Chocolate, Women, and Empire” (Roberston 1). The United Kingdom, Cadbury’s primary market, is largely composed of white consumers.  The population is not homogenous, but the majority of consumers are white.  Thus a non-white model is perceived as “exotic” because of the difference in skin color.

Instead of simply using Campbell to sell the chocolate, because they directly tell her to “move over,” many consumers assumed that Campbell was being directly compared to the chocolate – that she was the chocolate.  This was offensive because the basis of the comparison was that her skin color allowed her to be classified as a good for sale.  Interpreting this historically, it is possible to make ties to slavery and argue that this is a commoditization of humans, especially those of African descent. This, I believe is the basis of the large amount of criticism Cadbury received for its ad.  To eliminate this racist and historically disturbing association, we remove Campbell from the ad entirely, instead replacing her with the term “supermodels” in general.  By using the word “supermodels”, race becomes ambiguous and unimportant.  Supermodels are still stars, so the intended selling point of the ad remains the same, just the racial connotation is removed.  Our final ad can be seen below.  It is very similar to the original ad, but by chaning “diva” to “star”, “Naomi” to “supermodels”, and “pampered” to “revolutionary”, we eliminate both the race and gender discrimination that are so commonly found in chocolate advertisements.


Interestingly, this is one of the only examples of an African-descended woman to promote chocolate.  As Fahim states in his article, traditionally white women are used to portray the image of luxury and chocolate whereas black women are used to portray earthiness and a lower-class product (Fahim 16).  In some sense, this ad is a step in the right direction by not using a white model.  However, its downfall is that the non-white women is not being used to make the chocolate more attractive.  Instead she is being directly compared to the chocolate.

Interested in reading the Daily Mail’s article about the controversy over the ad?  The full article can be found here.

Works Cited

Fahim, Jamal. Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing. 2010.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 2010.

Multimedia Sources

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