Advertisements can be powerful tools in today’s economies, coaxing, luring, and sometimes just telling consumers what to buy. Not only selling products but also the perceived lifestyles and cultural values associated with their products. Chocolate, with all of the variety of advertising methods used to sell it, is a perfect example of advertising in our society today.
When one looks at the methodology used to create ads to sell chocolate one can see a variety of recurring themes, specifically lust, class definition, and gender.
The ad below appeared in several notable magazines. It is an advertisement for Ferrero Rocher chocolate. They present a contest for a luxury spa vacation, where you have to buy their product in order to enter. This is paired with a relatively simple image of a woman draped in nothing but a brown curtain.
There are a few note worthy things going on in this advertisement. It would seem that this advertisement is, through the contest especially, targeting women though the idea of possibly winning a luxurious spa getaway. Just by looking at the women as she is portrayed, It would seem to promise that the product can comfort, reward and satisfy individuals sexual desires. Emma Robertson discusses targeting women in chocolate advertising in her book, Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. According to Robertson, targeting women in chocolate advertising is nothing new . It has been happening since the early 19th century once chocolate became available to a wider range of classes, including the working classes. This seemed to happen after the chocolate producers of the day realized the purchasing power and roles of women in the home as the primary decision makers when it came to the purchase of food for the home.
The second point is sexualization. We have this coming up again and again in advertising, wich includes the over sexualization of people in these ads. In the Ferrero Rocher ad above we have a nude lady standing, draped in a curtain. As I mentioned earlier, this is a very common theme in chocolate advertising. But why? In advertising, grabbing and keeping your attention so that you remember and buy the product is the goal. This is done in a variety of ways, including blatant sexualization of products.
But in a study performed by Brad Bushman and discussed in Psychology Today, the idea that showing ads of a sexual nature was the best way to market was challenged. During the experiment, he showed a group of subjects three different types of advertisements. The first ad was of a violent nature, the second was sexual, and the third was neutral. Despite predictions, that brand information in the sexual or violent commercials would be retained at a higher rate than by watching the “neutral” commercials. This, however, was incorrect! After the subjects were asked to recall brands and other points in these advertisements. Surprisingly the neutral ads were recalled at a higher rate. And it seemed as though the sexual ads actually impaired the memory of the advertised products. He concluded that sex does not sell. And yet the trend continues, especially in chocolate advertising.
The third and last future of this ad that will be discussed is its obvious relation to socioeconomic class. In almost every chocolate ad we see individuals in a middle to high socioeconomic class interacting with the chocolate product and or other people of the same class. This is an effort by the industry to sell not a product, but to sell a lifestyle and an experience of luxury and decadence.
Below you will find several parodies of the Ferraro Chocolate adverts, extolling virtues not touched on in the original ads. And that are possibly more effective than the original ads braised on Bushman research.
In this ad, we have a meek woman working in a field with the Ferrero Rocher chocolate appearing in the corner as it does in the original as. But here we see a whole new set of points spring to life in this ad.
The first feature of this ad that counters the original is the implication of luxury. This ad has no implication of a luxurious experience or that the product will somehow help you live a more luxurious life. The ad above seems to extol the virtues of hard work and uses the chocolate as a simple reward for hard work. And while there is a woman in this ad, she is not portrayed in an overly sexualized way or even as living a lifestyle many others would like to live out. So through the ads simplicity, it may lead the viewer to think that the product is simple and perhaps plain as well.
Now this ad contains many of the same points that the first parody ad has. The idea that the product is a reward for hard work as stated in the tag line “Plain and simple, Ferrero Rocher after a long hard day” and the idea of meekness, shown in the individuals sitting “in” the wrapped chocolate ball. It also has the subtle implication of history and possibly tradition. In that group of older men sitting and smiling. It almost conjures up memories of your own grandfather and brings back those warm memories of your interactions with him. And yet again there is no implication of an upper-class lifestyle as the most obvious feature of this ad is its positioning of the product as something you get after hard work and not just because you think you deserve it. It is moving away from the self-indulgent trends of society that is seen in advertising and a return to the values of hard work and reward that some may see as old fashioned.
As a 21st century consumer, it is very important not to rely on advertisements to make purchasing decisions. Consumers need to rely on their own research and beliefs. We must not be distracted by these advertisements so that we don’t forget the implications of our purchases, socially, environmentally and on our health.
Roberson, Emma. “Chocolate, women and empire: A Social and Cultural History.” Manchester University Press, New York. 2010.
Furnham, Adrian. Ph.D. “Does Sex Sell.” Accessed. 4/6/2016. Psychology Today. Published 12/13/2013
Blogger, Guest. Ferrero Rocher Ad 1. The Society Pages. Accessed 4/6/2016. Pub. 12/2/2010
Blogger, Guest. Ferrero Rocher Ad 2. The Society Pages. Accessed 4/6/2016. Pub. 12/2/2010
McComb, Grant. Parody 1. “Amish Chocolate” Pub. 4/8/2016.
McComb, Grant. Parody 1. “Amish Chocolate, Simple Times” Pub. 4/8/2016.