The average person sees ads constantly, everywhere, and in all mediums — on television and online, on buses and billboards, and even on our phones. Companies spend substantial amounts of money on advertising campaigns in order to tempt people into buying their products, and to engender brand loyalty. Chocolate companies are no different. They are always trying to come up with new and interesting ways to advertise their chocolate products to get the public talking about their brands. This blog post will examine the 2009 Cadbury Bournville “Deliciously Dark Thoughts” ad campaign. While many would consider this ad campaign smart and interesting, it nevertheless highlights several disturbing trends in the imagery associated with chocolate industry advertisements.
The advertisement shown above, the “Secretary”, depicts an innocent secretary enjoying a Cadbury Bournville Mint Essence dark chocolate bar (Shau, 2009). The glass dome on the top of her head shows her “secret fantasy” or her “deliciously dark thoughts” that the chocolate bar inspires (Media Update, 2009). In this advertisement, the secretary is so overcome by the dark chocolate bar that she fantasizes that she is a dominatrix using her boss as a footstool while she eats her chocolate bar and enjoys her daily newspaper. The secretary is depicted as overly innocent to the point of childish in an almost pornagraphic way, which is shown by the pigtails and ribbons that she wears in her hair. In an office setting, her styling would be considered both inappropriate and unprofessional. This ad also shows how the chocolate allows this woman to tip the balance of power, as the chocolate allows her to completely subjugate her boss to the point of humility. In direct contrast to the childish secretary, the chocolate-fueled dominatrix is clearly a mature woman, shown by the red dress, lipstick, high boots, and the new hairstyle. While not overtly racist from a Western standpoint, the “Secretary” ad was run in South Africa, where the white people are a minority (South African National Census, 2011). Therefore, a direct link is shown between one’s social class and chocolate consumption. Like the secretary, “the non-society” (white) woman is expected to “aspire to the romantic lifestyle” and sexual fantasies that are inspired by eating the chocolate bar (Robertson, 2010).
In an effort to complement the stereotypes and sexual images depicted in the “Secretary” ad, I created the “Delicious Stereotype”. The awkward young man depicted in the “Delicious Stereotype” is transformed into a hyper-sexualized chocolate superhero upon tasting his “choco-lust” bar. As a superhero, this boy gains physical prowess and an attractive manly physique that allows the awkward young man to attract both his fantasy woman and his fantasy wife. This ad plays off of stereotypical heterosexual male fantasies involving multiple women, blonde women, exaggerated female anatomy, superheroes, and the the fetishization of the housewife (Robertson, 2010). The housewife is fetishized housewife through the images of the apron, perfect hair and makeup, and through image of her serving warm chocolate cupcakes. The Choco-Lust bar was chosen to highlight the fact that this chocolate ad campaign sells chocolate through the use of lustful fantasies. The image of two women coexisting in a non-monogamous relationship with the superhero along with their downcast eyes shows that the superhero holds the power in this relationship. Once again, the “Delicious Stereotype” ad is meant to show a link between class and chocolate, as the boy is clearly caucasian, the women are clearly dressed expensively, and the women probably underwent expensive surgical cosmetic enhancement. This ad was drawn using a male in order to highlight the difference between a socially acceptable female sexual fantasy and a socially acceptable male fantasy. If the “Secretary” were to be drawn with the exact opposite genders, the narrative would most likely be considered too disturbing by most people, and it would not sell chocolate to target female consumers.
Historically, chocolate ads have contained a wide variety of traditional stereotypes that have come to define the consumers of chocolate who buy chocolate products. With such a culturally ingrained chocolate narratives, is it possible to sell chocolate using less offensive images?
While trying to create an ad using innocent rather than provocative imagery, I created “Purely Delicious” (shown above). I ultimately rejected this ad, because it contained racist, heteronormative, and gender stereotypes. Changing the skin color, in my mind, made the ad highly racial rather than ambiguous (as was my original goal). Since I could not think of an ad that contained zero stereotypes, I decided to look up other ways to increase chocolate sales. Therefore, I stumbled across an Iranian study that suggested that more sophisticated chocolate packaging design can increase chocolate sales (Giyahi, 2011). While a change in packaging is not a perfect solution, it is less offensive than an advertising campaign, as most packaging contains class stereotypes alone (Martin, 2015)
“An Empirical study on the Relationship of Purchasing a Chocolate Based on its Packaging”. in Growing Science. Volume 2. December 2011.
Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 2010. pp. 1-131
South African National Census, 2011
http://unstats.un.org/unsd/censuskb20/KnowledgebaseArticle10237.aspx (Retrieved April 5, 2015)
Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Lecture 9. Harvard University. April 2015.
Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign, “Secretary”, 2009
Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign, “Bride”, 2009
Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign, “Red Riding Hood”, 2009
Cadbury Bournville Deliciously Dark Thoughts Advertising Campaign, “Deliciously Dark Caramel Crisp”, 2009
www.behance.net/gallery/681923/Cadbury-Bournville-%282009%29 (Retrieved April 5, 2015)
https://www.behance.net/gallery/728077/Cadbury-Bournville-(2010) (Retrieved April 5, 2015)
“Deliciously dark campaign delves into women’s secret fantasies”, November 2009
“Cadbury Bournville introduces deliciously dark Caramel Crisp”