Race and chocolate have been intertwined throughout history and the marketing of chocolate follows this race connection, sometimes by accident and bad taste, other times on purpose. There exists a dichotomy of “chocolate is to blackness: vanilla is to whiteness” and their respective flavors, chocolate and vanilla, or in this case, white chocolate, as cultural metaphors for race (Martin, Slide 12). Take, for instance, the chocolate ice cream bar brand, Magnum. Magum ice cream bars are eaten all over the world, but they have had some recent marketing snafu’s that have made the brand seem all but worldly. Of course, racism in ads is nothing new to the chocolate industry as Emma Robertson pointed out in her book, Chocolate, Women, and Empire, which traces the origins of this “commodity racism” back through time, pointing out notable advertising cultural metaphor issues such as Honeybunch and Rowntree Cocoa. However, the fact that this overt racism and using race as a cultural metaphor has been observed before and over the years, makes it even more shameful that these racist chocolate advertisements still permeate popular culture today (Robertson 36).
Rowntree Cocoa ad, 1950 which shows Honeybunch as a stereotypical “black” young girl, entertaining the British white family. The racist ads of the past, but now the racist ads focus on luxury of race and color and chocolate.
Unlike the racist chocolate advertising of the past, such as Honeybunch, which portrayed Honeybunch as a stereotypical uneducated young black girl with broken english, “folksy dialect… the use of such language by infantilised black characters was intended to amuse the white British audience,” the advertising of today is centered on a new take of an old idea that companies use “images of black people to enhance their luxury status” of their chocolate (Robertson 36). In the following advertising images I will explore how Magnum has used race to highlight and sell their chocolate products as luxury goods.
Magum Chocolate advertisement featuring a “cracked” black skinned woman, revealing white underneath.
This first Magnum chocolate advertisement blatantly features race, black and white, as a selling technique. The woman featured in the ad is very dark, with typical stereotyped lips accentuated by lip-gloss, looking sensually over at her “cracked” skin which reveals a white flesh or skin underneath. We can’t help but question why a person is portrayed as the chocolate ice cream bar here and ask why is she looking at her cracked shoulder in this way. With the little facial expression we see, it appears as if she is ashamed of the crack with the white showing through, an ode to the white culture that seems to “dominate” the past of the chocolate industry and still permeates through it today. Here is where we can see the selling of “luxury” that Robertson has mentioned. The woman in the ad looks soft and well groomed, although hairless, and without a blemish. Her lips are perfectly luscious and a deep red – a color that evokes a certain luxury. It seems as if Magnum is selling their chocolate as “pure” and “smooth,” just as the woman is – words that normally describe and portray high-end luxury goods.
Magnum Chocolate advertisement celebrating white chocolate but questionably celebrating the white race. Why can we not celebrate “dark” or “milk”?
This Magnum ad seems cute and tasteful from the outset, my roommate even looked over and said, “that’s cute!” thinking that it was the ad that I had created. Unfortunately, to me, it looks like an awkward celebration of white people over black. Why can we not celebrate white chocolate and black chocolate? The Magnum brand even created a hashtag for the event in 2015 named #CelebrateWhite. This ad seems to furthermore highlight race in chocolate advertising, but from a hyper-white perspective rather than the hyper-black perspective racist ads. Again, the luxury in this ad can be seem as the luxury of white but with hints of gold and platinum as accent colors, rather than flat white. The colors together evoke a certain class of luxury goods and metals.
Sadly, this is not the first time white chocolate has been ill conceived in advertising. This ad is reminiscent of a highly controversial 2013 ad by Ferrero Rocher chocolate advertising their new white nut chocolate:
The ad advocates for Germany to “vote white” and for white nuts to stay. This ad was criticized highly in Germany for referencing racial purity and was ultimately pulled. In the ad the crowd is chanting “white nut remain” and the giant white chocolate box is preaching to the crowd, “We want White Ferrero Kusschen forever.” The supporters in the crowd are also holding cards that translate into “Yes White Can” and “Germany Votes white.”
Another very recent chocolate advertisement is Magnum’s “Brown is in” ad, which features a prominent Indian Bollywood actress sensually eating an ice cream bar and pouring it on the guests below. At the party there are no people of color, and everything that is white or light turns brown. The ad directly sells the ice cream bar as a bar of color – brown. And directly relates this brown bar to the Bollywood actress, a “brown” Indian woman. This ad again furthers the argument that even in 2015, color and race is still being using to sell chocolate to consumers, but in a luxurious manner. The party is obviously extravagant with high-class wealthy individuals and the woman’s dress, although she is Indian and of “color,” is goddess-like and chiffon, she looks of luxury as well. She is luxury, she is eating luxury, and she is spreading that luxury.
Recent Magnum Chocolate ad featuring Bollywood Indian star, Kareena Kapoor. “Brown is in” referencing Indian skin and color.
However, Magnum did have a brief moment of glory when they explored creative ads, which featured their famous ice cream bars exploding out and showing their contents and colors. This was lauded in the advertising community as a very catchy and unique ad, a different “Magnum” than the earlier ads, but these ads have since disappeared. They focused on the product, rather than race or gender to sell.
Magnum Chocolate ad featuring creative explosions of chocolate, lauded in the advertising and marketing industry for being beautiful and artistic. A different spin on the typical chocolate advertisement featuring people, sexuality, or race.
In contrast to the Magnum ads I have presented above, I have proposed diversifying Magnum’s image as they have done in the past and in fact using part of their past art ads as part of these new ads. The two new mock-ups I have created maintain Magnum’s tagline: “For Pleasure Seekers,” but offer a new idea of what that pleasure is. Rather than the sexual desires or pleasures that this tagline normally would evoke and has in the past, these new ads see the “pleasure” as true good, fun, and healthy pleasurable activities. When Magnum first came out with their Explosion Art Ads, they were a big hit in the creative world. I think this would be the perfect way to market Magnum as different and fresh, but also stay true to its past of focusing on “pleasure.” Most importantly, these ads would focus not on race or gender, but on the activities and the beauty of the chocolate art and the backdrop. The silhouettes of the people make it more accessible for people to imagine themselves in these scenarios and feel the pleasure that such simple, but rewarding activities provide. Furthermore, because Magnum offers so many flavors and fillings inside the chocolate, the company could run a whole ad series for each flavor. For example, the controversial “white chocolate” ad featured above could instead be the white chocolate exploding and forming the snow of a mountain that climbers are trekking along, or even something as simple as an explosion into a white comfy pillow/bed or white sofa (a homey depiction of pleasure). These ads would shift the paradigm of “pleasure” for the chocolate eater.
Image created by author.
Image created by author.
(APOLOGY: If I had any sort of artistic ability these ads would be a lot more seamless – the art photo of the Magnum Chocolate is supposed to mesh into the background of the sunset image. The explosion of colors and flavors/ingredients is supposed to form the sunset image itself – coming out from the Magnum ice cream bar stick)
It is apparent that Dr. Carla Martin was correct in stating that “chocolate can reveal our cultural blindspots in relation to racism and inequality” (Martin, Slide 20). Magnum Chocolate has had many issues with these cultural blindspots specifically in regard to race and appropriating race to their chocolate ice cream bars. The company must recognize their faults and blindness to their seemingly casual racism and combat that with new adverts that focus on the beauty of their product and not on the race their product could be associated with. While the use of people and color in chocolate advertising has a long history, our current society must work to inform each other that this commodity racism is no longer accepted as normal (Martin, Race Theory).
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
Martin, Dr. Carla. Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements. Lecture.
Rowntree Cocoa: Screenshot from Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
Cracked Magnum Ad: http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/magnum-cracking-8197655/
Magnum Creative Ad: http://www.dailyinspiration.nl/creative-ads-magnum-ice-cream/
Ferrero White Chocolate ad: http://www.buzzfeed.com/copyranter/how-the-hell-did-this-germany-votes-white-chocolate-ad-make#.nqx36x36L
Two original ads: Images from above and two sunset photos: Shutterstock.com