I am certain that the Girl Scouts who invented s’mores were not trying to invoke Dickens when they named their famous treat, but the image of little Oliver begging for more food is much closer to the reality of the life of children working on cocoa farms than most Americans are comfortable admitting. Perhaps that image is a bit harsher than reality, but the fact remains that many children working on cocoa farms today do not have access to the products their work ultimately produces. Certainly, they do not have the kind of access to them that American children have – where chocolate treats are considered an expectation, rather than a luxury…in many cases, they are seen as rites of childhood even.
Watching HERSHEY’S “S’mores Around the Bonfire” ad certainly evoked memories of my own summer time rites of passage – making s’mores in the backyard or camping with my family. But, I had a much stronger reaction to the ads closing line…”HERSHEY’S is mine, yours, our chocolate.” Our chocolate – as in America’s. Amid the Cadbury’s controversy dealing with HERSHEY’S interference with imports of British chocolates, my initial reaction was that this ad was clearly sending a message that HERSHEY’S chocolate stands for America – it’s ours. But, this relatively benign ad hides a larger truth. “Our chocolate” is the product of the work of millions of people working in conditions most Americans would balk at for pay that wouldn’t keep an average American in coffee, much less sustain their livelihood.
“Adverts offer us ways of using commodities such as chocolate to say things about ourselves, our families, our social world.” (Roberston, 19) Comfortably dressed men, women, and children dance, laugh, sing and roast marshmallows for their ultimate reward – a s’more, while a country song in the background blatantly points out that “this is how we roll”. Despite the urban slang, the images and sounds are clearly intended to evoke a sense of middle America – where people push children in wheelbarrows and sit on hay bales while making s’mores. Some of the adults are passing on the recipe to the younger kids, ensuring that those kids will have the same campfire memories their parents had as children. While the crowd is relatively ethnically diverse, it is still a white woman who is setting the table – indicating her position as hostess/homemaker. By ensuring that there is real HERSHEY’S chocolate on the table, she is obeying “…the unspoken rules of hospitality, and the role of food/drink in such practices…” (Robertson, 23) because as the ad states “HERSHEY’S Makes it a S’more” – as if other chocolates just will not do.
The children in the ad are clearly enjoying their time as the center of adult attention being taught to make s’mores or being pushed around in the wheelbarrow; or running around the campfire with no cares or worries. And the image of s’mores as a food – its history underscores the idea that children should have fun being young, exploring the outdoors. HERSHEY’S website has an entire section devoted to s’mores, their history, ideas on how/when to make s’mores (and be the perfect hostess), even recipes. The storyline of s’mores history plays upon many of the themes we’ve discussed in class – HERSHEY’S s’mores as an affordable treat while picnicking with the family – either while camping or gathered together in the backyard. The story of s’mores definitely reinforces the strict gender roles experienced during these years of America’s history. Technology may move s’mores indoors in the 1960’s, but mom is still there to heat up those s’mores while the kids have fun ice skating or having sleepovers.
But, much of HERSHEY’S chocolate (and other chocolates) is produced on small family farms in countries where the price of a single bar “…represents more than the value of one boy’s work for three days, if they are being paid at all…” (Off, 7) Those children spend their days working to help support their families, rather than learning in school, and the campfire is more likely the source of cooking dinner daily than it is a reason for a social gathering with treats.
What I found more troubling than anything, however, was that while this ad manages to avoid many of the pitfalls commonly associated with chocolate advertising – the song they chose for the background plays into them all. The lyrics reference alcohol, gunplay, and excessive partying. The video features heavily tattooed men dancing and partying in the back of a semi with suggestively dressed (and posed) women whose appearances are random – different girls posing by the truck much like the girls in car magazines do. The men have almost no real interaction with the women, talking only to each other and then running off to perform tricks on their dirt bikes. The juxtaposition of these two videos says much about what we THINK we value, and what we really do value.
My ad response begins in much the same way as the first ad – images of children (my son and his cousins) enjoying chocolate and s’mores as kids. But, my kids are making their own s’mores – they are intelligent and independent; capable of having fun without making mom do all the work. But, I move to images of child workers on cocoa farmers. I wanted to make people aware that our concept of childhood as a time for fun and play is as much of a luxury as the chocolate itself is. I wanted to stress the point that consumers should be aware of who grows their chocolate, and so I included an image of a female farmer and happy children working on cocoa farms from different parts of the world. The song I chose embraces a more global vision of chocolate – of what “our chocolate” should be.
Armstrong, Louis. “What a Wonderful World.” What a Wonderful World. By Bob Thiele and George David Weiss. 1967. mp3.
Hershey’s. Hershey’s S’mores. n.d. https://www.hersheys.com/pure-smores/pure-smores-traditions.aspx. 9 April 2015.
—. Hershey’s SMores Around the Bonfire. 6 April 2015. Advertisement. 9 April 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGRAmQeu2xo>.
Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. New York: The New Press, 2006.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, women and empire. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.
This is How We Roll ft. Luke Bryan. Perf. Florida Georgia Line. Universal Republic Nashville Records. 2014. 9 April 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbxuXq_981s>.
World Cocoa Foundation. “Boys Planting.” 2015.
—. “Chidren 5 Playing at Cocoa Tree.” Photos: World Cocoa Foundation. 2015. 9 April 2015. <http://worldcocoafoundation.org/category/news-media/photos/>.
—. “Cocoa Child Laborer.” Eu Commission Says Trade Sanctions Not Best Instrument to Fight Child Labor. 24 June 2013. 9 April 2015. <http://worldcocoafoundation.org/wcf-newsletter-may-june-2013/>.