Sexism, Racism, Colorism and Chocolate

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Supermodel icon Naomi Campbell. photo: the gaurdian

Founded in 1824, Cadbury is no stranger to controversy and has created a legacy of producing stereotypical, racially insensitive advertisements. A few examples are the infamous Drumming Gorilla (2007); and the Mastication for the Nation (2009). Although these advertisements negatively impacted and offended consumers of color in a hurtful way, the Cadbury brand continued to ignore and exploit the offenses for financial gain. In this instance, Cadbury compared their Dairy Milk Bliss Bar to Naomi Campbell–an iconic supermodel of European nationality and Black ethnicity. Campbell, nationally known, recognized and worshipped for her striking features and beauty, signature runway walk, and flawless brown skin; also became known for having violent physical outbursts and tantrums. It is the latter of Campbell’s reputation that Cadbury used to both explain and defend the source of inspiration for the Bliss Bar advertisement. In my critical analysis, I consider Cadbury’s history of racially inappropriate ads; lack of sensitivity to people of color; and refusal to address and eliminate overarching racist themes in their advertisements. Finally, I create an alternative advertisement, which introduces the three new flavours of the Dairy Milk Bliss Bar, inviting diversity through inclusion.

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Cadbury’s infamous Dairy Milk Bliss chocolate ad. photo: theguardian

In 2011, Cadbury ran a campaign to introduce its Dairy Milk Bliss Bar in three new flavors (Chocolate Truffle, Toffee Truffle & Hazelnut Truffle). The image is simple: the Dairy Milk Bliss Bar mounted atop a montage of diamonds. But it is the tagline that sucks the life from its debut launch: “Move over Naomi, there’s a new diva in town.” The lifeless ad drew immediate criticism and was hailed as racist among consumers, civil rights leaders/organizations, and most importantly–Campbell herself. Not only was Campbell “shocked and hurt to see her name next to the chocolate bar,” (Daily Reporter, 2011) but felt that being likened to a chocolate bar was in “poor taste on [many] levels” (TheGuardian). Campbell shamed the ad as an “insult to black women” (TheGuardian). Cadbury, who initially defended the ad, citing its creative inspiration with a “tongue-in-cheek play on her reputation for diva-style tantrums,” (TheGuardian) denied that Campbell’s skin color and ethnicity played any factor. Nevertheless, their explanation did not appease the public or civil rights organizations who called for an apology and boycott of Cadbury, which forced Cadbury (who initially refused) to issue an apology to Campbell, her family, and consumers–later pulling the ad.

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Cadbury’s controversial ‘Drumming Gorilla’ ad (2007). photo: theguardian

As the old saying goes: ‘this ain’t their first rodeo!’ That said, I find Cadbury’s apology to be disingenuous. Even if their claim to “poke fun” at Campbell’s “diva” tantrums is true, the word diva itself is a sexist, misogynistic term, used to describe a woman who is demanding, hard to work with, temperamental and superior. Furthermore, was Campbell the only celebrity making headlines for bad behavior? According to FOX News, and US Weekly Magazine, the majority of 2010 and 2011’s biggest celebrity meltdowns were by white men. So why did Cadbury choose to target Campbell specifically? Furthermore, why was her behavior significant enough to warrant a national advertising campaign as opposed to other celebrities? Lastly, how did the connotation of the tagline connect with other sociohistorical themes and stereotypes?

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Cadbury’s attempt to publicly apologize to Campbell in yet another ad.  photo: theguardian

Historically and in present day society, dark colored chocolate is associated with wickedness and impurity; whereas white chocolate is associated with goodness and purity. This is a historical perception that is deified in racism. In the Bliss Bar ad, the chocolate bar is surrounded by white diamonds and a bright-colored background. I believe the imagery was created to distract from the dark, wicked perception of chocolate in contrast with what is acceptable and desirable. In another equally racist and misogynistic chocolate advertisement which appeared in the British editions of women’s global magazines: African women with dark chocolate skin were pictured with a tagline themed “women with attitude,” (Leissle, p. 124) despite the fact that there was no “attitude” upon their countenance. In a world dominated by white men, women have historically been objectified to sell products. However, women of color are usually typecast with themes of negativity or aggression, while white women are cast as well-mannered, welcoming and desirable.

As women of color, there is also a deeper, complex issue that factors into racism: colorism. In colorism, people of color with lighter skin are perceived as more favorable and desirable; where people of darker skin are perceived as less favorable, undesirable and aggressive. These false stereotypes carry deep ancestral history. Although Campbell’s public persona may have contributed to the Bliss Bar ad, the narrative was intended to objectify her skin color and ethnicity in a way that was unfavorable and undesirable.

 

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My version of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Bliss Bar advertisement. Inclusion.

In my advertisement, I create an invitation for the world to be introduced to the Bliss Bars new flavours. I intentionally excluded all references to race, sex and ethnicity for the purposes of objectifying our common love and desire for chocolate. By choosing to focus on our commonalities and shared love for chocolate, we all feel included. My wish for Cadbury is that they eliminate the racial undertones and narratives of their advertisements. Thereby, choosing to task themselves in becoming aware and sensitized to why people of color feel exploited, humiliated and dehumanized by their advertisements. Inasmuch, their most racially offensive ads have been created by an agency, Fallon, who clearly lacks sensitivity to racist connotations, imagery and historical context. Maybe therein lies an arrogant resistance to humility and responsibility. Perhaps Cadbury should allow Campbell to stay… and invite Fallon to ‘move over.’ Permanently.

 

Works cited

Daily Mail Reporter: Cadbury apologizes to Naomi Campbell over ‘racist’ advert that compared her to chocolate. June 2011. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1393982/Cadbury-apologises-Naomi-Campbell-racist-advert-compared-chocolate.html

Kristy Leissle (2012): Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Cosmopolitan Journal of African Cultural Studies. 24.2, 121-139.

Mark Sweeney: Cadbury apologizes to Naomi Campbell over ‘racist’ ad.  TheGuardian. June 2011. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/jun/03/cadbury-naomi-campbell-ad

 

 

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