Controversial advertisements are all around us. They pop up during commercial breaks, fill the pages of our magazines, and even make their way onto our social media feeds. Due to the fact that we come across so many ads throughout the day, companies go to great lengths to make their ads stand out. Sparking controversy is one way to catch the attention of the public, and many companies take advantage of this phenomenon to promote their brand. Many of these ads play on gender roles, use racial stereotypes, sexualize both men and women. In order to “rebrand” these types of advertisements, we must eliminate connections made between the product with race, ethnicity, and gender.
The ad to the right uses a black man’s muscular abs to promote Dove Chocolate. The small chocolate bar on the bottom corner of the ad suggests that the chocolate bar should be compared to this man’s dark, well defined abdominal muscles. The advertising slogan, “six pack that melts a girls heart,” makes this connection all the more clear. The slogan and image of the actual chocolate bar suggest that the shape and color of the six piece chocolate bar is just as enticing to a woman as the man’s muscular body. This ad sexualizes and objectifies the man by suggesting that a woman want to eat him just a much as they want to eat a chocolate bar. This is also offensive to women as it assumes a connection between a woman’s desire for chocolate and her desire for men. This assumption also plays on the idea that women become irrational when it comes to chocolate (Martin). Finally, the ad also creates a connection between temptation and blackness. The man’s dark skin is supposed to make the chocolate all the more sinful, desirable, and indulgent (Martin).
Dove is not the only company to put out advertisements such as the one described above, and these companies have been publishing these types of ads for a long time. Historically, blackness and chocolate have been used together in ads and even in stories such as Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (Robertson 1). In Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History, Robertson discusses the history of black men and women being used in chocolate ads and other chocolate-related tales. One example is of the Oompa-Loompas from the original Willy Wonka (1). The original Oompa-Loompas (pictured above) were black, and “the young-white working-class hero of the tale, Charlie Bucket, asks if they are made of chocolate” (1). This suggests that black people (or even Oompa-Loompas) have been depicted as edible objects throughout history, While this Oompa-Loompa example isn’t sexualized or gendered, it does illuminate the fact that the idea of blackness has been connected to chocolate for decades.
In order to “rebrand” the Dove Chocolate ad, we must break the historical connection between blackness and chocolate. The ad to the left, made in response to the original Dove Chocolate ad, attempts to do just that. By replacing the black man’s abs with a white man’s average body, we eliminate any tie between blackness and chocolate. The new slogan, “chocolate that I enjoy, just because its good” also focuses the ad on the product rather than the sexualization of a man. The man in the picture holding up his two thumbs is there to show that anyone can enjoy the chocolate. Thus, this ad is no longer directed at women and their “desire” for chocolate. This ad is still not perfect as it still objectifies the man pictured by only including his body. Although it is not perfect, it does get rid the of the sexual, racial, and gender stereotypes included in the original ad. Plus, this ad could be just as successful as the first. It may not be alluring, but this ad is definitely weird and humorous because of its simplicity.
In an ideal world, all advertisements would be “rebranded” to eliminate all stereotypes including those involving race, gender, and ethnicity. Some groups have taken steps to do this. In Leissle’s article, she shows how rebranded advertisements for Divine Chocolate “disrupt narratives” used in the advertising world today (Leissle 136). While she admits that the ads focusing on the African female cacao farmers are not perfect, they do well in focusing on the products and eliminating negative perceptions of cacao farming (Leissle). Prejudices and stereotypes may not be so easy to remedy but starting with advertisement “rebranding” is a step in the right direction.
Martin, Carla D. “Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard University, Cambridge, MA. 30 March 2015. Class Lecture.
Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24.2 (2012): 121-139. Web.
“Original Oompa-Loompas.” <http://www.philnel.com/2010/09/19/censoring-ideology/> 09 April 2015.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009. Print.
“Six Pack that Melts a Girl’s Heart.” 2007. Dove Chocolate, Mars Company. Digital File. 09 April 2015.