A Candy bar from Mars Perpetuates Stereotypes of Men on Earth: An Analysis of Snickers Ads

Figure 1
Figure 1

In 1930, the midst of the great depression, the Mars Company released a new brand of candy bar—Snickers[1]. Named after Frank Mar’s favorite horse, the bar was a result of three years of experimentation with chocolate, peanuts, caramel, and nougat. Over the next few decades, Snickers would become one of the most successfully marketed and sold candy bars around the globe. By 1984, Snickers was declared the official snack food of the Olympic Games, leading to an advertising campaign which featured athletes such as John Siman, pictured above, holding a snickers which created an association between Olympic success and Snickers candy bars[2]. The advertisement emphasized that Snickers was ‘packed with peanuts’ and ‘really satisfies’, creating the illusion that the legumes in the bar added significant nutritional value. It targeted the younger generation, pushing them to believe that if they ate the candy, they would end up an Olympian, just like water polo legend John Siman even though chocolate has largely contributed to obesity in America (Lecture 19).

The marketing of Snickers’ “peanut power” persevered through the following decades. In 2010, Snickers adopted a new campaign slogan: ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry – so have yourself a Snickers and be yourself again’[3]. A clever rebirth of their original advertising campaign, this slogan carried with it direct reference to the nutritional and nourishing nature of Snickers bars. Instead of turning into professional athletes, however, they appealed to the everyday average Joe. Yet, despite comedic intentions, the lighthearted campaign quickly turned offensive, boasting obvious male gender stereotypes.

Figure 2
Figure 2

For instance, the advertisement on the left pictures an average gruff male construction worker likely in his forties, smiling and seemingly yelling. Above him, the words ‘When I’m Hungry, I greet attractive women with polite silence’ are printed in bold on a chocolate-brown background. Along with the new campaign slogan plastered at the bottom of the ad and the 1984 tag line ‘Snickers satisfies’, the quote plays directly into harmful stereotypes of blue collar workers across America while perpetuating the notion that Snickers bars have nutritional benefits.

Interestingly, the advertisement appears empowering at first glance. The words are refreshing in the context of a male-dominated blue collar environment. It isn’t often that a bald, overweight, goateed white male would insight gender empowerment on the streets of an urban landscape. However, the simple addition of the Snickers slogan negates any gender anti-objectification, and suggests that this isn’t commonplace for construction workers. More generally, it implies that it isn’t acceptable or normal behavior for men to ‘greet attractive women with polite silence’. Instead, men are expected to be loud and rude to women passing by. But why present an offensive male gender stereotype?

Usually women are the objects of chocolate advertising, and chocolate companies are able to target both men and women through sexual commercials with women losing control over chocolate[4]. In this advertisement, the losing control aspect is kept intact, but the target demographic has changed. This poster targets everyone, not just moms, kids, or women, but people from all walks of life. What person isn’t familiar the stereotype of men calling out transparent compliments to women on the street? Yet, this is the root problem in marketing today. Companies advertise to convey universal generalizations to appeal to an audience’s sense of humor, but doing this only perpetuates the problem. Perhaps advertisements should be more like the one to the right, a critical re-imagining of the first 2010 ad.

Figure 4In this advertisement, a handsome young man flips the previous advertisement’s message 180 degrees. The text above his head reads ‘When I am Hungry, I greet attractive women with rude cat calls’, implying that it shouldn’t be expected for men to act rude and inappropriate around attractive – or just any – women on the street. It doesn’t emasculate the idea of being polite or play into a stereotype, but rather indulges the idea of a world without the objectification of women. Using the same slogan as the original advertisement but different text, the new ad does not rely on the use of comedy to appeal to a wider audience. Instead, it earnestly addresses a societal gender incongruence with undertones of comedy due to the somewhat awkward nature of the man in the picture. The goofy glasses add a level of imperfection to the man making him identifiable, while the text does not play into the blue collar stereotype seen in the first ad.

Ultimately, sexism and gender stereotypes are still prevalent in the chocolate industry. This is shown in the 2010 Snickers ad campaign in an obvious attempt to, as Robertson proposes, “position [consumers] in relation to the product as gendered, classed, and raced beings”[5]. Marketers rely on these preconceived notions to appeal to audiences, and Snickers is no different. Hopefully the next ad campaign will not rely on categorizing men or women, but will introduce a new more positive message for consumers of Snickers bars.

[1] Goddard, Leslie. Chicago’s Sweet Candy History. Arcadia Publishing, 2012.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Schultz, E.J. “Behind the Snickers Campaign That Launched a Global Comeback.” Advertising Age. N.p, N.d. Web. http://adage.com/article/special-report-ana-annual-meeting-2013/snickers-campaign-launched-a-global-comeback/244593/. Retrieved 10 April 2015.

[4] Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester:

Manchester University Press, 2009.

[5] Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester:

Manchester University Press, 2009.

Works Cited

Figure 1) http://2.bp.blogspot.com/__iUWLJiDfYg/SZXmUHGipHI/AAAAAAAAKLk/qky50kxtTpA/s400/Siman_Snickers_Ad1.jpg

Figure 2)  http://www.arenakain.com/You-re-Not-You

Figure 3) User created content

Gianatasio, David. “Construction Workers Yell Messages of Empowerment to Women in Snickers Stunt.” AdWeek. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Schultz, E.J. “Behind the Snickers Campaign That Launched a Global Comeback.” Advertising Age. N.p, N.d. Web. http://adage.com/article/special-report-ana-annual-meeting- 2013/snickers-campaign-launched-a-global-comeback/244593/. Retrieved 10 April 2015.

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