Prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination on the basis of sex run rampant in advertisements we see today (Martin). This trend is apparent especially in the marketing of chocolate products. Since the early days of chocolates history the consumption of chocolate in the west has been feminised and this feminisation of chocolate has made its way into chocolate advertisements (Robertson, 20). There are many trends in which gender is represented in chocolate advertisements such as the fetishisation of women as housewives and mothers, the gendered discourse of class, the narratives of heterosexual romance, and the depiction of women as irrational narcissistic consumers, to name a few that are discussed in Chocolate, women and empire by Emma Robertson. Lucy Kosimar conducted research on gendered advertising and found that “advertising is an insidious propaganda machine for a male supremacist society. It spews out images of women as sex mates, housekeepers, mothers and menial workers — images that perhaps reflect the true status of most women in society, but which also make it increasingly difficult for women to break out of the sexist stereotypes that imprison them,” which is in line with our discussion in lecture and what we see in chocolate advertising today (Komisar, 304). The advertisement that Anne Maguire and I chose to use for this assignment exhibits the gendered advertising trends that we have learned about in lectures and readings that I mentioned above.
The advertisement we chose is a print ad for Kit Kat, a chocolate product of Hershey in the United States (pictured above) and Nestle globally (Grasso). This global ad was produced in Italy according to our source. With the slogans “one-minute break” and “have a break,” this ad alludes to taking a quick break during a busy day to indulge in a satisfying Kit Kat. The use of the word “break” also relates to how you break a bar off the Kit Kat when you consume it. Although the slogans work well with the ad, the framing of the model in this ad is quite problematic. The woman in the ad is in workwear attire sitting in a chair as an invisible desk where she seems to be working on an invisible computer. If you look closely you’ll see on the left side of the ad in very small print that the ad is inspired by the “One Minute Sculptures” of Erwin Wurm. Written small on the side, casual readers might not see the blurb or understand the reference and they might question why this woman is at an invisible desk. Furthermore, the work that this woman is doing at her desk is very secretarial, which makes the ad even more problematic as this type of work is very stereotypical for women in the workplace. The woman in this kit kat ad is not portrayed as a strong business woman doing worthwhile work, instead she is portrayed as doing menial work at her invisible desk. This is similar to our discussion in class about the problematic depiction of bodies not brains (Youtube). In the Kit Kat ad the woman is dressed in a suggestive manner. Although she is wearing professional attire, what gained Anne’s and my attention is the slit on her skirt. The model has a very long slit up the front of her skirt. Although most professional business attire skirts are straight pencil skirts without slits, the woman here has a skirt with a long slit up the front of her skirt exposing most of her legs. Why do we need to see so much skin, this is an ad for chocolate isn’t it?!
The intended audience of this ad is women who have a quick break at work. The goal of this ad it to target these women- with this ad Nestle is hoping that this audience will consider having a Kit Kat during their one minute breaks at work. However, if business women are their intended audience, why would Nestle advertise an over sexualized woman who is not being shown as a dominant female force in the workplace? In re-creating this ad, Anne and I hoped to confront these objections.
In class we discussed the problematic depiction of bodies not brains in chocolate advertisements. In our ad Anne and I wanted to focus on the brains, not the body, of the woman in the ad. We also wanted to make sure to represent her as a determined, smart, and successful business woman. In our ad, pictured above, you can see that we replaced the invisible work environment with a real work environment. Our subject can be viewed as either exiting or entering a meeting room and is dressed more appropriately than the subject in the original ad. No longer do we see a skirt with an exaggerated slit up the front, now we see a woman dressed with minimal skin showing. We chose to add a message to the ad: “two perfect presentations down, two to go. Have a break, you earned it”. This message helps the ad call on the brains of the woman pictured and not her body. Instead of asking working women to take a break from doing their work at the computer to have a Kit Kat like the original ad asked, our ad is asking women to enjoy a quick Kit Kat break during a busy day filled with meetings and presentation. We better target the intended audience in our ad because we depict the working woman in a more favorable light in which she comes off as smart and important. It is surprising that this advertisement, just like so many other chocolate advertisements out there, use such negative depiction of women in their ads given the importance of women in the chocolate industry as consumers. In my opinion, the original ad is discriminatory against women and paints the company in an unfavorable light.
Grasso, Giuseppe. One-minute Break. Digital image. Kit Kat, n.d. Web.
Komisar, Lucy. The New Feminism. London: F. Watts, 1971. Print.
Martin, Carla. “Lecture 9: Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” AFAM 119X. CGIS South, Tsai Auditorium S010, Cambridge. Lecture.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. 1-131. Print.
Youtube. “The Sexiest Ad for the Sweetest Thing.” YouTube. YouTube, 14 Mar. 2007. Web. 06 Apr. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh3BCEaGHmw>.