Cadbury Bournville Chocolate Ad: Race, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2xm2TBgKeU

The original Cadbury advertisement, “Bournville Chocolate Ad” aligns Cadbury chocolate with perfection and hints that buyers of Cadbury chocolate bars are buying only the best, and thus associating themselves with excellence. The advertisement, in showing a well-dressed white Cadbury cacao buyer contrasting with a group of black male cacao farmers furthers the binary exploiter-exploited narrative discussed in lecture. The advertisement also furthers problematic racial and gender stereotypes about cacao farming and power dynamics in the cacao supply chain. In conclusion, the Cadbury advertisement is designed to increase brand prestige but has imbedded in the ad myriad of problematic misrepresentations.

The Bournville chocolate advertisement markets Cadbury chocolate as chocolate of the highest quality by showing a Cadbury buyer carefully selecting only the finest cacao beans. In the video, the buyer, impeccably dressed in an immaculate grey suit to show his association with perfection, carefully examines every cacao bean by looking at it through a looking glass, sniffing its aroma. The viewer of the advertisement is then encouraged to associate Cadbury chocolate with the highest quality chocolate made from the best beans, and when the buyer purchases a Cadbury chocolate product he or she is associating himself or herself with excellence.

The Bournville chocolate advertisement, in showing the relative excellence of the Cadbury cacao buyer and Cadbury chocolate bars, also emphasizes the relative lower socioeconomic and social class of the cacao farmers through side-by-side comparison. The power imbalance between the cacao buyer and the cacao farmers are portrayed through the short screen shot of a primitive Ghanaian village as well as the sharp contrast in clothing between the buyer and the farmers and the mannerisms of the buyer versus the farmers. The advertisement shows a Ghanaian cacao farm as a primitive village with a hut for housing and dirt roads. The buyer’s modern SUV contrasts sharply against the primitive Ghanaian farm. The white cacao buyer is also dressed in a grey suit, is clean, and well groomed while the African Ghanaian farmers are in old, tattered, dirty clothes and look unkempt. The buyer also sits on a chair while the farmers all stand huddled together, which implies that the buyer is more important and deserves seating. When the cacao bean starts crying because it was not chosen, the white buyer attempts to soothe it gently while an African farmer barbarically brushes the bean off the table. The advertisement thus perpetuates stereotypes about Africa and the western world by showing Africa as primitive and Africans as powerless and a westerner as sophisticated and powerful. The Africans are passive and serve to entertain.

The secondary readings suggest that broader racism in chocolate ads reflects racist history of chocolate production. Rowntree emphasized the idea of black men as “entertainers,” another means of selling to white individuals (Robertson, 1-7). Given that chocolate itself has an imperial history of slavery and racism in the cacao supply chain, race is very relevant in chocolate advertising. Robertson notes in a different publication that, “such raced imaginings of cocoa consumption have both reflected and fed into a broader culture of racism in the west,” which has alarming implications for an ethical society (Hund et al. 171).

Additionally, the Bournville advertisement perpetuates gender stereotypes by showing a room full of men conducting business while leaving women out. In actual cacao farms, women are often given a lot of responsibility. However, the advertisement perpetuates sexist gender stereotypes by showing only the male cacao farmers and male cacao buyers. In contrast to the Bournville ad, women work and produce cocoa beans in west Africa. In fact, says Professor Leissle of the Global Studies and African Studies Department at the University of Washington, women too are farmers and are “potent actors in transnational exchanges of raw materials and luxury goods” (Leslie, 212). Her analysis of ads from Divine Chocolate ad that shows African farmers as businesswomen concludes with the idea that these female Ghanaian cacao farmers do not merely occupy trivial roles, but they “do farm” and that they are also businesswomen who “assert their roles in…market exchanges” (Leslie, 136).

Source: Divine Chocolate in Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139
Source: Divine Chocolate in Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2): 121-139

In conclusion, the Cadbury Bournville chocolate advertisement fails to represent the actual economic, political, and social conditions in which Cadbury chocolate products and profits are produced. The advertisement reveals racial and gender blind spots by revealing the advertisement’s implicit biases.

Chocolate Ad

A revised advertisement created in class shows the Cadbury chocolate bar receiving recognition and wealth while cacao beans receive no recognition or money. The advertisement seeks to show the power imbalance in the cacao production chain in a socially responsible way without falling into gender and racial stereotypes.

Cadbury has a moral obligation to present its product in a fair and productive light so that buyers understand the complete implications of their purchase. The new advertisement explores the distorted power dynamics in chocolate production and steps away from racial prejudices. While the new advertisements will not sell a lot of Cadbury chocolates, it will fulfill Cadbury’s corporate responsibility to tell the truth about how chocolate bars are made.

Kristy Leissle (2012). “Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Fefashioning Africa in Divine

Chocolate Advertisements,” Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 121-139.

Robertson, Emma. (2009). Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. New York, NY: Manchester University Press.

Hund, W., Pickering, M., & Robertson, E. (2013). Bittersweet Temptations: Race and the Advertising of Cocoa. In A. Ramamurthy (Ed.), Colonial advertising & commodity racism (pp. 171-196). Wien ; Zürich.

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