Ever the low hanging fruit for criticism with its consistently controversial “You’re not you when you’re hungry” advertisement campaign, the 2016 Snickers series has picked up where the 2015 ads left off. In the latest installment, a pair of full-page advertisements for the candy bar featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition provides a generous addition to the off-color collection of commercials (Sports Illustrated). Through its objectification of women in their Sports Illustrated advertisements, Snickers unleashes a particularly sinister technique to unabashedly exploit the inclinations of its target audience and propagate a new slant on the industry-wide motif of the use of attractive women to sell chocolate.
The original advertisement shown above effortlessly blends with the genre of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Located on the back cover of the annual periodical, at first glance, the full-page advert appears to be another glamorous photograph of a model. However, upon closer examination, Snickers logos in the bottom right and top left are surrounded with the now familiar phrasing, “Photo Retouchers Get Confused When They’re Hungry.” Further scrutiny reveals an eerily placed hand on the model’s right shoulder, a hastily deleted handbag in her left hand, and a misaligned horizon – supposedly evidence of the “confused” photo retouchers.
Initial reactions to this advertisement are of amusement. The bodiless hand is merely “creepy,” the handbag a comical oversight, and the skewed horizons another example of the rushed production. The reader may even be impressed if this last miscue is a cleverly veiled reference to da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (da Vinci). It is more likely merely a coincidence. However, scrupulous readings reveal a more sinister, sexist undertone.
Interestingly, in this piece we do not encounter the now more common manipulation of attractive women within a chocolate advertisement. Described by Emma Robertson in her writings regarding the feminization of chocolate consumption in the west, this theme is not present (Robertson 20). Rather than depicting a beautiful woman caught in the throes of chocolate ecstasy, the advertisement is shifted. The woman featured is not “irrational, narcissistic or excessively aroused due to chocolate” (Martin). While that genre of advertisements typically targets women, the intended audience, in this case, is men. The women serve only as props in their scene. They are merely the products in the photo retouchers’ jobs, which leads to two underlying insults:
- First, the women are clearly objectified, merely a tool within the ad.
- Secondly, the creators backhandedly imply that significant editing was used on every other woman featured in the publication.
In my own appropriately poorly PhotoShopped rendition of the advertisement, I replace the message in the top left of the page with “Our Ad Dept Gets a Little Sexist When They’re Hungry.” While neither a new nor original critique of this multi-year Snickers campaign, the goal with these words is to humanize the people responsible for its edification. While the ascription of hunger to anonymous “photo retouchers” partially employs this strategy, it separates the advertisement’s owners, Mars Inc, from the “confused” mistakes the ad highlights. To correct this split, my words are intended to place responsibility definitively upon the firm who created the advertisement. While unlikely to sell many Snickers bars, I find it a more honest statement.
While clever at a casual glance, this Snickers advertisement provides a new variety of objectification of women within the chocolate industry. Successful in humanizing the magazine’s production through the relatable feeling of hunger by its “retouchers”, the advertisement’s creators dehumanize the women featured. Without complete naiveté to the much larger debate surrounding the entire Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition institution and calls for its advertisers’ boycott (Shields, 182), this Snickers advertisement could do more to promote the role of women it features and avoid insult to their trade. The ad campaign could use some retouching.
da Vinci, Leonardo. “Mona Lisa – Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, Wife of Francesco Del Giocondo.” 1503. Web. 08 Apr. 2016. <http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/mona-lisa-portrait-lisa-gherardini-wife-francesco-del-giocondo>
Martin, Carla. “AAAS E-119 Lecture 9: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Class in Chocolate Advertisements.” Cambridge, MA: Harvard University. 2016. Lecture.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
Shields, Vickie Rutledge. Measuring Up: How Advertising Affects Self-Image. University of Pennsylvania, 2001. Print.
Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition. February 2016. Time Inc.