The majority of contemporary chocolate advertisements appear to have one thing in common—they portray a world far removed from the one in which chocolate’s primary ingredient, the cocoa bean, originates. Many advertisements introduce chocolate products as if their point of origin begins with the chocolate maker or manufacturer; and many omit references to “those at the very start of the chain” (Robertson, P18). Consequently, consumers are hardly informed of the places from which raw materials for chocolate originate. Instead, they are fed information about the latter part of the production chain—the part that has been “conched,” sweetened and smoothed, then luxuriously foiled . . .
To illustrate, the advertisement below for Lindt’s Lindor truffle begins with molten chocolate attended by one of Lindt’s “master chocolatiers” who is in the process of making Lindor truffles. The surface meaning of this commercial is that Lindt employs fine craftsmanship in making its chocolates, and as a result consumers are assured of fine quality. The visual aspects of this advertisement augment the message and are embodied in the transfixed gaze of the “master chocolatier” along with his pristine attire and golden whisk.
However, according to Emma Robertson,
“the versatility and malleability of melted chocolate allow it to be literally molded to take on different forms, which are themselves endowed with different associations.”
One might argue, therefore, that Lindt intended to portray their chocolate’s production journey from start to finish in this commercial, and perhaps, intentionally omit the life of the bean prior to conversion to the molten chocolate. To appreciate this angle, consider that the ad starts off with a lingering focus on molten chocolate, which implies this is the raw material from which Lindor truffles are made. The footage then moves through scenes but then focuses on the “master chocolatier,” and the narrator informs that the Lindor truffle is “created with passion by Lindt’s Master Chocolatiers.” The ad ends with the truffle wrapped in Lindt’s signature foil. As a result, the consumer may not think beyond these scenes or consider the prior stages in which the raw material for the truffle is sourced.
This advertisement is certainly a fine example of the opinion that consumers are “distanced geographically and economically from those at the very start of the chain” (Robertson, P18). As a result, it is fair to venture that advertising and marketing techniques utilized in advertisements for many chocolate products, keep modern consumers—especially those concerned about ethical consumption—at a safe distance from the socio-economic issues that pervade the cocoa industry; especially the African regions that today produce roughly 70% of the world’s cacao.
Advertisements for chocolate seems to have missed the fact that there is a lot of beauty to be found in the initial stage of chocolate’s production chain. For example, the cacao pod itself is an exquisite fruit that captivates, and many chocolate consumers may have never seen one because it is so seldom depicted in contemporary advertisements.
Chocolate manufacturers could take a more inclusive approach with their advertising, and include references to, or images of, the many uplifting aspects of the first stage of the production chain. This approach will allow consumers “to discover the broader social and cultural implications” (Frith, 1997) associated with chocolate, and perhaps assume greater appreciation for chocolate. One might argue that highlighting more aspects about cacao as regards where it grows, and by whom, can raise awareness of the many atrocities associated with the cocoa industry. Consequently, more consumers may become involved with doing something to alleviate the associated pains.
Instead of juxtaposing chocolate with sex and romance as many large manufacturers do, advertisements can maintain a sense of allure by including aspects of the distant lands and peoples that produce the bulk of the world’s cocoa. Furthermore, over the last several years chocolate has been increasingly identified by the variety and origin of the cacao they contain (Nesto). This shifting paradigm paves the way for chocolate manufacturers to celebrate terroir in their advertisements as opposed to the overly churned, stale, sexual innuendos that consumers have been fed ad nauseam. It was in the spirit of this narrative that I created the advertisement below in which I have included images of the raw materials and a farmer, in an effort to present a more realistic picture of the production chain.
One might argue that my advertisement above is not as sexy or as racy as traditional chocolate advertisements but perhaps it is time to adjust the themes associated with chocolate. More importantly, my hope is that the images in this advertisement will initiate curiosity in the minds of modern information-age consumers, and sufficiently “sharpen [their] critical sensibilities” (Frith, 1997) thereby inviting them to further explore the world of cacao.
- Frith, Katherine T.. “Chapter 1: Undressing the Ad: Reading Culture in Advertising”. Counterpoints54 (1997): 1–17. Web…
- Nesto, Bill. Terroir in the World of Chocolate. Gastronomica, Vol. 10 (2010). University of California Press.
- Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 2010. 1-131. Print.