Reframing the Golden Moment: Analyzing Sexual Tone in Godiva Chocolate Ads

Luxury chocolate has historically been sold and advertised to wealthy, white, female consumers. The class connotations of chocolate advertisements from companies like Cadbury, Ferrero Rocher and Godiva use luxurious settings and beautiful well-dressed white women in ecstasy to capitalize on the implications of wealth as well as the association of chocolate and female pleasure. This Godiva Ad, featuring said beautiful white woman and a “golden moment”, plays into the ubiquitous advertising tropes discussed above. By using an innuendo for orgasm and a sophisticated model, the ad suggests that the woman consuming Godiva luxury chocolate is something to aspire to not just because of the trappings of her class but also because of the pleasure she’s able to attain. In pushing back on this ad, I suggest that every woman’s “Golden Moment” is not a sexual climax but rather any good feeling. The hope of this original ad is to dispel the notion that chocolate is pleasurable because it is like sex for women; the pleasure of chocolate does not need to be sexualized because of the subject’s gender.

The ad in question is one of many that feature women, often as “Godiva Divas” indulging in chocolate and basking in the afterglow of having consumed Godiva products. 

Any close reading of an ad for Godiva Chocolate would be required to start at the very branding of the luxury chocolate. In its very name the company draws on historical associations with female sexuality through Lady Godiva, the nude noblewoman on horseback. The small, stylized logo in the bottom left-hand corner evokes the lady in question but most prominently features the company name “Godiva”. This subtle inclusion of branding in an ad that features a mostly clothed woman, albeit in bed, strengthens the tie between the chocolate and female sexuality that is essential to the ad’s messaging.

godiva outline
An enlarged version of the stylized logo shows in more detail and underlines the importance of the Lady Godiva legend in the branding of their chocolate – just the outline of a nude breast is the subtle connection between Godiva Chocolate and female sexuality that runs through all of their branding. 

The next important feature of this ad is the subject—the woman lying in bed. While the setting of the ad will be discussed later, the woman herself is an important piece of understanding the intent and result of the ad. This woman, much like the white women historically featured in Rowntree Ads (Robertson 28), represents aspirational upper-class whiteness, suggesting that to consume luxury goods like she does is a right reserved for the wealthy. The styling of her clothes, face and hair reinforce this notion as she is in a form fitting, sophisticated black dress with glamorous eye makeup. Her hair is styled to make it look effortless and slightly tousled but beautiful, reflecting the ease of her elegant lifestyle. These aspects of her styling also are sexually suggestive—the dress is cut to frame her breasts with a sweetheart neckline and the same effortless and tousled look is evocative of post-coital bed head. The pose in the bed and also against the pillow strengthens again the association between this ad and female sexuality, placing the subject of the ad in a pose and place evocative of sex.

The discussion of setting is brief only because the major setting of the ad is in a well-appointed bedroom. As discussed above, the fact that this woman is in bed is evocative, almost purely, of sex. Settings like this are not unique, with ads featuring bedrooms, bathrooms, and bathtubs are almost ubiquitous in the luxury chocolate marketing world. The sexual implications of these places are clear and they endow each ad with a sensuality that chocolate companies have long exploited to sell chocolate. The additional implications of this setting are class related. The major feature of the furniture in the bedroom is the beautiful tufted headboard in the background. While the recognition of the design value of a headboard as such has certain class implications, the mere fact of a headboard when many don’t have them at all puts the wealth of the subject on display, creating in addition to sexual implications, class implications for the consumption of Godiva chocolate.

new ad
The new ad pushes on the boundaries of class and race with a black family set without the trappings of wealth. The family aspect additionally pushes back on the sexualization of eating chocolate. 

In pushing back on this ad I hoped to do two things. First, I wanted to create “The Golden Moment” that had to do with pleasure or accomplishment that was not inherently or implicitly sexual. In creating this ad I wanted to find a “moment” accessible to women regardless of class. I chose to celebrate sharing chocolate with family in an ad whose “Golden Moment” is a smile between a grandmother and a granddaughter. The setting was also explicitly chosen to not reflect upper-class sensibilities as the focus. Much lik other campaigns that try to feature “unconventional models” for selling chocolate, the family here is American Black, giving Black Americans the opportunity to see themselves as the target consumer of the product (Leissle 135). Finally, instead of using the female silhouette logo created by Godiva, I opted instead for the logo used on Godiva products that includes only the name. This ad eliminates the use of female sexuality by positioning its subjects in a completely non-sexual situation and setting. This creates a new Golden Moment associated neither with sex nor with upper-class whiteness.


Works Cited

Kristy Leissle (2012): Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in DivineChocolate advertisements, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 121-139

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.
Elliott, Stuart. “Godiva Rides in a New Direction.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 2009. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

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