Advertising in the chocolate industry, indeed, in the food industry as a whole, is one of the most complex parts of a truly basic aspect of our lives. We all need food to survive and don’t need external parties to remind us of this human condition. Why, then, did food manufacturers spend more than $7 billion in 1997 alone? This expenditure is due to the fact that food is not simply something we eat to survive, but a multi-billion dollar industry which sells a way of life as much as it sells food products. This is especially true in chocolate advertising. By examining some advertisements, I will argue that problematic gender stereotypes are reinforced through chocolate advertising, and that big chocolate companies are not selling food, but a particular image or feeling of masculinity.
One of the largest chocolate manufacturers in the world is Mars, Inc. This one company controls about 30% of the market for chocolate in the United States. With this kind of market share, Mars’ choices in advertising have serious impacts on the entire chocolate market. As Fazlollah Kazemi argues in her study of the growing Indian chocolate market, “Based on this study, advertisement and quality are the major factors responsible for the success of Cadbury Dairy Milk. The implication of this is that other variables seem not to count much to the consumers as long as the quality of a product is maintained and the brand is also supported by heavy advertising reminding and persuading consumers to continue to buy.” This kind of power is why one of their recent ads is particularly troubling. Consider the following commercial for one of their most well known brands, Snickers, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_rr7dRcuztc. This commercial shows Johnny Manziel, a well known football player, leading a group of women in an aerobics class. He is told to eat a Snickers bar, at which point he appears wearing his football uniform. This advertisement is problematic because it says that feminine qualities are worse than masculine ones. Once Manziel is dressed as a football player, he says,“better”. This type of advertisement is less about selling a product than an attitude, which in this case is masculinity. This is apparent since the actual product, a Snickers bar, appears on screen for a total of 5 seconds out of the 30 second advertisement.
The way chocolate advertising is currently done can be not only overwhelming, but lends itself to many negative gender and racial stereotypes. The advertisement which we have created is a minimalist commentary on the overcomplexity of advertising in the chocolate industry. It a simple, clean image which reminds the consumer what they are actually buying. We chose to use a cocoa bean instead of a processed chocolate product to acknowledge the vast amount of agricultural labor, which is largely ignored or forgotten, that goes into the creation of chocolate. This advertisement is meant to make the consumer think about the raw cocoa product, which is in response to the Snickers ad which contains almost no reference to chocolate as a plant or natural product. Here is our advertisement:
In the chocolate industry today, it is rare to find a brand which is so direct with the consumer as we are being in our ad. One exception is Theo Chocolate, a company which uses only organic and Fair Trade cocoa in their bars. The “O” in Theo is styled to look like a cacao pod, reminding consumers of the raw product which is processed to create chocolate. An example of a Theo Chocolate bar can be seen here:Notice how the ingredients which have been added to the chocolate, in this case cherries and almonds, are also shown in their raw forms. This is noticeably different from the Snickers commercial which, in the brief time that the bar is shown, only shows the finished, processed products. These second two advertisements are free of both gender and racial stereotypes, something which cannot be said about the Snickers advertisement. By focusing on selling the food itself, instead of masculinity, advertisers can eliminate the biases and stereotypes in their commercials.
- Gallo, Anthony E. “Food Advertising in the United States.” USDA/ERS. Web. 9 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/91050/aib750i_1_.pdf>.
- “Mars United States.” Mars, Inc. Web. 9 Apr. 2015. <http://www.mars.com/global/about-mars/mars-pia/market-summaries/mars-united-states.aspx>.
- Fazlollah, Kazemi, and Malihe Esmaeili. “The Role of Media on Consumer Brand Choice; A Case Study of Chocolate Industry.” International Journal of Business Management, 1 Sept. 2010. Web. 9 Apr. 2015. <http://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/ijbm/article/viewFile/7319/5692>.