In this blog post, I will closely read the following advertisement issued by Lindt through various lenses including its surface meaning, cultural and ideological meaning, and semiotic analysis, in order to demonstrate the impact that sex has in chocolate advertising and the impact chocolate advertising has on sexual stereotypes. Then, I will present an original advertisement which solves such issues.
The surface meaning of the advertisement is that the Lindt chocolate is a desirable gift for a man to give his girlfriend. The image of the card that reads “happy Monday darling” reminds not only that “big boys” should buy Lindt chocolate for gifts, but also how they should purchase gifts for such small occasions, which is a marketing strategy aimed at increasing opportunities for men to purchase gifts, and hence, to purchase their chocolate products.
The cultural implication of the advertisement is a classical, heteronormative viewpoint of romantic relationships. First, out of all the words that could address the male audience, the diction of “big boys” is rather peculiar. It reminds the male reader of his parent telling him how he should behave. It is a phrase that is embedded in the childhood memories of most male audience, and hence, it is a voice of authority that could assert something even without proper reason. Such voice is especially effective in this situation where Lindt attempts to enforce the sexual norm of the man gifting the woman.
Another implication is the sexual symbolism of chocolate. According to Fahim,
“(a)dvertisers have mystified the commodity” and “advertisers portray chocolate as satisfying female sexual desires” (Fahim 2). While this particular advertisement by Lindt does not directly depict a woman indulged in chocolate, the picture of the box of chocolate in an undone wrapping and loosened ribbon carries a sexual resonance, especially given the context that it is a gift from a man to a woman. Fahim continues that “(t)hese ads are subjectifying since they help construct the subjective experience of the viewer” (Fahim 3). This advertisement is no exception, and contributes in constructing the social stereotype that women are easily delighted with chocolate.
How could one respond to these issues? According to Gill, a common approach in contemporary advertising is to shift the role of the women from “passive, ‘dumb’, or unintelligent sex objects” to “active, beautiful, smart, powerful sexual subjects” (Gill 52). While she generally praises these as positive shifts that offers “modernized representations of femininity that allow women power and agency”, she also points out some problems such as that they “operate within a profoundly heteronormative framework” (Gill 54).
In order to sidestep these problems, my partner and I have chosen a picture that has a balanced mix of all genders, in order to elude any sexual stereotypes such as male giving gifts, and female indulging in chocolate. Further, we chose an image that displays friendship over romantic relationship, since we believe that the association of chocolate with asexual connections is an effective and modern approach to advertising chocolate. Chocolate and candy are marketed as products to be consumed with friends often in the context of Halloween and childhood, but when the audience is for adults, the romantic association is more frequently observed. Our catch “A touch of sweetness for any relationship” invites the society to the new perception of chocolate as a lubricant for friendship and camaraderie, even for adults.
Gill, Rosalind Empowerment/Sexism: Figuring Female Sexual Agency in Contemporary Advertising Feminism Psychology February 2008 vol. 18 no. 1 35-60
Fahim, Jamal, “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing” (2010).Sociology Student Scholarship.
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