In 2011, an Indian-based chocolate company called Lotte Choco Caramel With Mango released an advertisement that received enormous criticism for its controversial content. The advertisement features racist and sexist imagery that I do not believe was necessary in order to encourage consumption of the product. The company could have come up with an equally creative advertisement that wouldn’t have been seen as offensive by so many individuals.
The ad, depicted above, features a male personification of a mango reading the newspaper as a woman of color, presumably his maid, hangs up laundry to dry. This is taking place in what appears to be the front yard of a mansion in the background, which we can assume belongs to the mango. Already, there are racist and sexist tropes at play – the maid, a black woman, is working as a servant for a presumably rich male mango, who seems to be staring at her with sexual intention.
The advertisement gets worse upon closer inspection. The product being marketed here is a chocolate caramel candy with mango inside, an admittedly unique and interesting combination. This leads us to an observation about the maid – she is pregnant. We can only assume that she is pregnant with the mango’s baby, as he looks upon her sexually. The maid, we assume, personifies the chocolate candy itself, and the advertisement-makers play a twisted interpretation of this by literally putting a baby mango inside of her.
This plays on several racist and sexist themes – a black lady is used to represent chocolate, an ongoing issue in chocolate advertising where the chocolate is used as a racial signifier (Cadbury’s recent advertisement, shown here to the left, is a recent example of this, drawing criticism from the public for racist undertones). Furthermore, the fact that she is impregnated by the wealthy man employing her draws eerie parallels to slavery-era America, where white slave-owners regularly impregnated and/or raped their black female slaves, despite the fact that they were usually married. We also receive indication that he plans to do this again, evidenced by the way that he looks at her.
It is clear that Lotte Choco Caramel With Mango erred significantly in the advertisement that they publicized in order to sell their new product. It should be obvious that such a despicable portrayal of women and people of color was not at all necessary to create a captivating advertisement. Depicted to the right is an original advertisement proposed by the author that could be used as inspiration for an ad by the company. It successfully represents the product without featuring any racist or sexist undertones, instead finding other ways to creatively imply that the mango can be found inside of the piece of chocolate, making for a very interesting combination of tastes.
As we progress further through the 21st century, we must put forth more effort into making sure that blatantly racist and sexist advertisements like the one released by Lotte Choco Caramel With Mango never see the light of day. The themes that it plays on are all too common in modern-day advertising: using chocolate as a racial signifier, showing women as sexual objects, and depicting black women in particular as overly sexualized. The advertisement goes way overboard, even referencing potential sexual assault and slavery. Hopefully, chocolate companies around the world can work together to introduce an era of advertising that is more sympathetic towards people’s struggles going forward.