Back in 2010, Snickers launched their “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign when they aired the following commercial at Super Bowl XLIV. This started a series of personality-based ads that focused on individual characteristics and traits instead of traditional gender stereotypes, creating a more positive advertising environment.
Here we see a group of young men playing football, but one of the players turns out to be Golden Girl actress Betty White. She’s struggling to keep up with the guys, and after a tackle, the group gathers for a huddle. One of the players calls her “Mike” and says that he’s playing like Betty White out there. Soon after, Betty White is shown unwrapping and eating a Snickers Bar, at which point White turns into a young twenty-something man like the rest of the team. When asked if he feels better, he replies “Better.” As the ad closes, we see another supposedly hungry player in the form of an elderly man being tackled after having possession of the ball.
When examining this ad, we see that Mars has taken special care to create a fairly equal gendered representation of the people in their hungry state. Many chocolate advertisements place women in a bad light, painting them either as sexually or mentally crazed at the thought of chocolate. Here, Snickers chose to focus on the perceived slowness of age instead of gender. Both a man and a woman were presented as hungry and therefore ineffective at their task of playing football. Instead of just turning into women when hungry and implying that this is some form of weakness, the actors simply transformed into someone else of advanced age.
We see this focus on “not being yourself” when hungry rather than gendered values repeated in many other advertisements for Snickers. Below are two print ads showing athletes incorrectly setting up for action in a way that would cause them a loss. The following video shows Godzilla being fun to be around until he gets hungry, at which point he becomes destructive. In most of the advertisements that Snickers releases, the focus is on not acting as yourself and not behaving in the way you usually would in a typical situation.
One reason for this may be that Mars has created a Global Marketing Code for Food, Chocolate, Confections, and Gum. After a long section describing how Mars does not market to children under 12 years of age, the guidelines state that
“Advertising for our products should not depict or be placed in programs or media involving:
- Ethnic, racial, religious or sexual stereotyping or ridicule [or]
- Explicit sexual behavior or inappropriate sexual suggestiveness or innuendo.”(Mars Global Marketing Code)
By enumerating these practices into a code of ethics that is closely followed, Mars breaks away from many of the traditional and stereotypical tropes that are used when advertising chocolate. This not only creates a more positive social atmosphere, but is beneficial to Mars as well. By breaking into new territory, ads stand out more and as a result become more memorable and effective. (Harvard Business Review)
That’s why I would continue with the current line of advertising.
In my own version here, President Obama sends some Snickers to Putin of Russia, claiming that he’s mean when he’s hungry and that people don’t like that. After eating the candy bar, Putin feels better and says “Thanks Obama,” a popular part of current memes. This continues on with Snickers’ current method of advertising, showing that when hungry, people don’t act like their normal, rational selves. They don’t think clearly and they act in unacceptable ways. The implication is that by performing the simple act of sharing a Snickers bar, world leaders can help to create a more peaceful co-existence. By extension this would also apply to the lives of everyday people around the world. When you’re upset or not thinking straight, the ad wants you to take the proper steps to correct that (with their product of course).
When looking at the type of advertising that Mars releases for Snickers, we see that they have stuck to their Global Marketing Code and placed emphasis on personality traits rather than tired gender stereotypes. Their current ads focus on how people can act when not at the top of their game, and how much of an impact that can have on their goals. Instead of simply targeting an audience with the same old clichéd and sexist depictions of women, Snickers has embraced both genders, focused on personality, and created a highly effective and memorable campaign.
Werner Reinartz and Peter Saffert, “Creativity in Advertising: When It Works and When It Doesn’t,” Harvard Business Review June (2013), accessed April 12, 2015, https://hbr.org/2013/06/creativity-in-advertising-when-it-works-and-when-it-doesnt
“Mars Global Marketing Code for Food, Chocolate, Confections, and Gum,” accessed April 12, 2015, http://www.mars.com/global/assets/documents/MMC_Handbook.pdf.