Whether you are advertising a car, a cheeseburger, or a pair of sneakers, sex always sells.
We’ve seen it time and time again—a woman, caught in a moment of pure, rapturous ecstasy, unable to control her own limbs, all because of a single morsel of chocolate. Ideally, that would be the case every time one bit into a chocolate bar, but the reality is that most of the time, chocolate is a thing of comfort. Whether it’s been a long day at the office, or you’re mourning a lost love, or perhaps you finally have house to yourself for a night, a bit of chocolate does seem to make it all better (at least momentarily). This isn’t to say that chocolate cannot be a very sensual delight. However, it is unrealistic to assume the every-day, modern woman has a few hours to spare in the evening to draw a bath and soak, all for the sake of enjoying her sinful moment of cocoa bliss (Figure 1).
Figure 1: 1991 Cadbury’s Flake Advertisement Feat. Rachel Brown
This contorted, sexualized depiction of chocolate consumption is evident in the DOVE Chocolate advertisement (Figure 2) titled, “Senses.” As part of the “My Moment. My DOVE.” branding campaign, the commercial utilizes the notion of this raw, sexual consumption of the food to advertise their product. The shot opens to a brunette beauty, scantily clad in a chocolate-colored chemise gown as sultry music plays in the background. The commercial voiceover remarks: “Only a chocolate this pure can be this silky…” just as the woman takes a bite; she then smiles to show the instant gratification she experiences the moment it touches her lips. As the “tantalizing” taste of silk chocolate ensnares her senses, a rain of chocolate silk envelops her body, and the voice continues “…and make you savor, sigh, [and] melt.” Her last look to the viewer is one of complete satisfaction, sighing as the screen fades to the product sitting on a bed of brown silk. “…DOVE pure silk chocolate, now with a tantalizing crunch of almond.”
Figure 2: DOVE Silk Chocolate “Senses” Commercial
There is a duality in the imagery of this advertisement, as the implications of what the company depicts can be analyzed both literally and figuratively. In a direct interpretation of the advert, the woman takes a bite of the chocolate, the falling fabric representing the “silky” nature of the product. She smiles because the chocolate is delicious. In a deeper investigation, the portrayal addresses the viewer on a much more sensual, carnal level.
At first glance, chocolate advertising appears to cater to base appetites, but it simultaneously arouses appetites of a social nature by promising to satisfy viewers’ deep-seated desires for sexual fulfillment and higher class status (Fahim 1).
“Senses” taps into the subject of female sexuality, relying heavily on the dynamic of the recipient and the source. As Emma Robertson asserts in her book Chocolate, women, and empire, there is an orgasmic pleasure that is brought about by the woman’s need to consume chocolate, and those natural responses to sexual gratification are what such commercials depict (35). Mars (owner of the DOVE brand) is not alone—big manufacturers such as Cadbury and Ferrero are culprits as well, using primarily women (and sometimes men, as seen in Figure 3) for marketing purposes. Robertson states that western identifications of chocolate as “luxurious, hedonistic and sensual” are the primary foundations of advertisement; those concepts unquestionably ring true in the examples shown below (3).
Figure 3: 1960’s Cadbury’s “Waterfall” Flake Advertisement
Figure 4: Nestle Aero Bubbles Advertisement Feat. Jason Lewis
My aim in rebranding this DOVE campaign is to honestly portray the normalcy of the food in a way that is relatable to all women (and men, for that matter). Robertson claims that we use goods as a means of expressing our own sense of identity, and advertisements are a mechanism in which we can “say things about ourselves, our families, [and] our social world” (19). In my still advert, my intent was to do just that.
Rather than portray the female lead as a perfectly-coiffed, well-dressed model, I drew what I believe to be a realistic representation of the modern woman, enjoying DOVE chocolate in her most relaxed setting. In her “moment”, it is a Friday night after a long day at the office. All the character wants to do is to change into a pair of ratty sweatpants and her college t-shirt, free herself from the suffocating constraints of her Victoria’s Secret bra, and to sit on her couch for the next four hours, just to enjoy a peaceful evening of poorly-rated reality television. Her elevated cuisine consists of microwavable popcorn, a few glasses of Two-Buck Chuck, and lastly, a whole bar (yes, a whole bar) of DOVE Silk Chocolate. She takes out her contact lenses and swaps them for her thick-framed glasses, settles into the concave section of her couch, and revels in the full comfort of being in her own space, her home. The tagline is as modest as the small joys in life the woman experiences in this scene: “My Moment. My DOVE.”
This illustration may not be glamorous, sexy, or edited to perfection, but it is an honest representation of chocolate consumption in this day and age. It most definitely is not the case for all those who enjoy the treat, but the purpose of this advertisement is to alleviate the blatant sexual connotations of most chocolate commercials—it is not to create a blanket statement to dictate how one should experience simple bliss. Perhaps if advertisers focused on realistic representations of their subjects, viewers would share a more meaningful connection with their products. Sex sells, but honesty is a breath of fresh air.
Fahim, Jamal. Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing. PhD diss., Occidental College, 2010. OxyScholar.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.
Cadbury’s. “Cadbury’s Flake 1960’s Commercial.” Advertisement. YouTube. Accessed April 3, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=to0SIB_Fr5U.
Cadbury’s. “Cadbury’s Flake 1991 Commercial, Featuring Rachel Brown.” Advertisement. YouTube. Accessed April 3, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMwMKJhaf7A
DOVE (Mars Company). “Senses.” Advertisement. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwPwQ4S4op8.
Nestle. “Nestle Aero Bubbles Commercial, Featuring Actor Jason Lewis.” Advertisement. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSWPJ1KxsXI.