The advertisement that I chose introduces Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups from Hershey’s in dark chocolate form, first released in 2010. It’s tagline reads, “Do Not Deny Your Dark Side”. This not only plays on the use of dark chocolate in the product, but is certainly also suggestive of the sinfulness associated with the consumption of chocolate. Chocolate can be viewed as a guilty pleasure that one wants to savor whether good for them or not. The ad seems to give the viewer permission to indulge and because it is “perfectly dark” and presumably more healthy for you, there is no reason to feel bad about consuming the product.
The counter ad that I designed also displays the tagline, “Do Not Deny Your Dark Side”. However, this message hovers over a picture of the continent of Africa in which a pair of chained hands is depicted. This represents not only the issue of child slavery as it is and has been used in the production of chocolate, but also the idea that the disconnect between producer and consumer places the consumer in an exploitative role in the chocolate-making process.
I chose to keep a similar color scheme as the original advertisement for the sake of continuity and also to evoke strong emotions towards my design just as the familiar orange and brown evoke strong emotions of comfort and pleasure for the consumer who has grown up with Reese’s. However, the emotions I sought to summon were quite the opposite of comfort and pleasure. I was hoping for something along the lines of realization, horror, and guilt as the Western consumer comes to an understanding of the politics behind the making of their chocolatey snack.
In my re-imagined ad I wanted to convey a different set of images to correspond with the use of the word “dark”. My first implied meaning of the word “dark” quite literally applies to the skin tones of those producing cacao product in Africa. I further attempted to highlight this by depicting the chained hands of the enslaved. This works to place in context the particular setting and status of the group of people being referred to.
Secondly, in my ad “dark” refers to the immoral act of child slavery and highlights the chocolate consumer’s implicit participation in the nefariousness of this practice. Although there is much speculation over the numbers of children who are enslaved, Berlan notes, “there is evidence to indicate that cocoa production in West Africa does involve some use of illegal child labour, defined as child trafficking or the involvement of children in hazardous activities” (Berlan, 2013). Playing on the original ad’s use of “dark” as sinful, my depiction takes on a more malevolent demeanor. Addition of “Perfectly dark” at the bottom of the advertisement is intended to be troublesome in that it also suggests that darkness in this form (the act of child slavery) is welcomed or even that forced labor is best when its actors are dark skinned.
It is also possible to consider another component in chocolate–sugar, and how this commodity also has socio-historical significance to Africa. As discussed in class as well as obtained from common knowledge about the history of slavery, we know that people from Africa were enslaved and brought to the Americas to work on plantations cultivating crops such as sugar. This helps to highlight the fact that the “darkness” at play within the ads is multi-layered in this case due to the history of each ingredient contained within the product.
While I don’t suspect that chocolate consumption will ever go away nor do I suggest that it should, I would hope that my advertisement helps to better educate consumers about where their food comes from and to make informed decisions about whether or not to purchase the product.