With the increasing prevalence of gender stereotypes in the marketing that is bombarded at us today, there is commonly a focus placed on the female side of the problem. Particularly in the realm of chocolate advertising, women are often portrayed as individuals highly influenced by chocolate’s seduction, as well as objects of desire acting to enhance the attraction of the chocolate itself. However, it is important and revealing to also acknowledge a parallel issue that lies on the opposite end of the gender stereotype spectrum. With a series of chocolate advertisements released by Snickers, a brand of chocolate made by Mars, there is ample evidence to show that men are stereotyped as loud, impolite, dumb, shallow brutes who overly care about satisfying their carnal desires, to name a few. A close analysis of these advertisements brings to light many of these negative and demeaning messages about men.
In the following Snickers advertisement, a male construction worker wearing a yellow hardhat is shown with a statement above his head and a punchline below. The man appears to be quite rugged and burly with his facial hair and noticeable occupation. The brown background color caters more to a masculine audience and also conveniently matches well with the color of a chocolate Snickers Bar. By stating the underlying premise that “you’re not you when you are hungry” (Figure 1), this advertisement claims that men generally do not greet attractive women with polite silence. It is obviously not true that all men act this way towards women, but yet this advertisement negatively puts the male gender in this category, possibly targeting an audience that is proud to call this stereotype truth. Two similar ads released as part of the same campaign are no better.
Figure 2. / Figure 3.
As seen above, men in these two instances seem to be depicted as shallow and highly sexually driven creatures. Whether it’s the emphasis on undressing a woman or engaging in multiple relationships, both likely for the sake of sexual endeavors, it is rather unfair to say that this is just “who we are”. Elizabeth Plank, a Policy Mic writer, describes a Snickers commercial that aired in Australia and again had this same theme. Construction workers are shown shouting empowering statements to women as a parody of what they would actually say were they not hungry. Unfortunately (or fortunately), the controversial video has been made private, but her criticism of it is telling, “On the other, the men are portrayed as presumably idiotic, disgusting and flat-out predatorial in their natural state” (Plank). David Gianatasio from AdWeek also lashed out at the ad, commenting, “By saying blue-collar guys ‘aren’t themselves’ when they’re being polite, it pretty clearly implies they’re otherwise a bunch of misogynistic boors” (Gianatasio).
In an effort to combat this damaging stereotype of men rendered for the sake of selling a chocolate bar, my partner and I decided to redesign the first advertisement referenced in this post. Instead of using the existing face, we replaced it with an image of a more common and potentially more sophisticated looking man. The statement above his head has also been reversed, now implying that “rude cat calls” are not the default greetings for women, but rather the exact opposite. The new ad does not play on a degrading male stereotype and works to respect those that strive to treat women with respect.
In many ways, the problems found in this ad campaign done by Snickers are representative of a larger systemic trend plaguing chocolate advertising that crosses both gender and class boundaries. Emma Robertson describes the overall phenomena in her work Chocolate, Women and Empire, saying “Adverts offer ways of using commodities such as chocolate to say things about ourselves, our families, our social world. They also position us in relation to that product as gendered, classed, and raced beings” (Robertson 19). In the advertising for this particular product, we not only see a male stereotype at play, but other underlying themes as well. Milk chocolate, the type used in Snickers Bars, is commonly cited as favored among the working classes, as compared to dark chocolate being favored by higher classes (Robertson 29). The chocolate bar form is also often associated with consumers who are busy and on-the-go, implying a working and non-domestic lifestyle catered towards men (Robertson 24). Jane Dusselier points out in Candy, and the Construction of Gender,that “while women’s candy was seen as a dainty, sensual treat, men’s candy was marketing as having more of a purpose to its consumption” (Inness). For Snickers, the purpose of chocolate seems to be unleashing natural crude male qualities against women. Indeed, these problems are just two sides of the same sexist coin. Women on one end, men on the other. It will be nice to see the day when a bridge can begin to cross this chasm.
Figure 1) http://www.arenakain.com/You-re-Not-You
Figure 2) http://www.arenakain.com/You-re-Not-You
Figure 4) User created content
Dusselier, Jane. Bonbons, Lemon Drops, and Oh Henry! Bars: Candy, Consumer Culture, and the Construction of Gender, 1895 – 1920 (13-50), in Sherrie A. Inness (ed.) Kitchen Culture in America (2001) Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Gianatasio, David. “Construction Workers Yell Messages of Empowerment to Women in Snickers Stunt.” AdWeek. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Plank, Elizabeth. “This Offensive Snickers Ad Accidentally Shows Exactly How Sexism Hurts Men.” Mic. N.p., 27 Mar. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Robertson, E. (2009): Chocolate, women, and empire. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.