Instant Gratification. The desire to experience pleasure without delay, without worry, without thought. Each and every day we look at our phones, computers, or televisions sets, this craving is fed for a fleeting moment. With just a swipe of a finger, a click of a mouse, or a switch of the channel, we are promptly bombarded with an image designed to feed this desire. Although every person has their own set of unique preferences regarding what appeals to them, advertisers know what is most alluring to all of us. Sex. Power. Spectacle. Consequently, the majority of advertisements are 30-second displays of the crude and bizarre. Particularly, advertisements concerning consumer chocolate have followed the “crude and bizarre” blueprint quite religiously. Ignoring the factual and unsettling history of cacao production, many chocolate companies appeal to our lucrative need for instant gratification. Therefore, these chocolate advertisements—laced with undertones of racism and sexism—impede society’s progress towards equality in the name of profit.
Above is an advertisement created and promoted by Dove. Flipping through a magazine with this imagine occupying an entire page. As the standard vanilla-white pages skip by, one would catch your eye. An alluring, milk chocolate brown would jump out at you, piquing your interest. The distinction between “standard vanilla” white and “alluring, milk chocolate” brown is significant; in our present day, vanilla and chocolate serve as cultural metaphors for race (Martin, 2016). Thus, vanilla is to whiteness as chocolate is to blackness. Going a layer deeper, whiteness exemplifies the respected standard: purity, chastity, and regality. Yet, due to it’s ubiquity, whiteness is also old-fashioned, tepid, and boring. Boring, the one word that keeps advertisers up at night. Therefore, looking to stand out amongst the crowd, advertisers look for the polar opposite of whiteness: blackness. Blackness embodies desire, impurity, and sexuality, words that advertisers swear by. Thus, as the alluring colors of black and brown dominate the image, advertiser draws the reader in instantly.
The picture itself is of a black man, or rather a black man’s abdominal region. The man is faceless and nameless; his defining characteristic is his muscles, turning him into an awe-inspiring spectacle and nothing more. As detailed by Robertson (2010), this depiction of black men in the advertisement of chocolate products is not something novel. Throughout the history of cacao production and consumption, black men were used as spectacles, whether it be to display wealth or the exotic. Additionally, the man’s body appears to be caught in a brief flash of light, indicating that blackness enveloped his body the moment before. Once again, this is a ploy by the advertiser to emphasize the alluring elements within the image; what once was a silhouette is now something desirable. Furthermore, the space behind the man’s body is milk chocolate brown, as if to suggest that the man is made from chocolate. In sum, the color scheme and depiction used within this advertisement takes advantage of the racism inherent chocolate due to its production in Africa.
Finally, as if tacked on as an afterthought, a small image of the Dove product is accompanied by a faint tag line at the bottom of the image that reads “Six Pack that melts a girl’s heart. Dove chocolate.” In effect, Dove announces that its chocolate is for women and that the advertisement is meant to feed their desire for a muscular man that seduces her. Like the objectification of black men, the simplification of women in chocolate advertising is also indicated throughout history. As Kawash (2014) details, chocolate companies build their adverting campaigns on the stereotype that women “crave” certain products. This blatant sexism not only mocks the consumers of chocolate, but also its producers; many African women are involved in the cacao production process, so advertisements such as these both attack their ethnicity and gender.
In response to the Dove advertisement, I have created my own advertisement above. Gone are any elements of sexism, racism, or any other form of inequality. However, the advertisement still aims to draw the reader in, to feed their desire for instant gratification. At a glance, the reader notices friends grabbing out for something, laughing in the sand with their hands at full stretch. In short, it’s a spectacle, something advertiser strive to show as simply as possible. At closer inspection, the reader notices that the people are reaching for a bag of Dove chocolate. Thus, the advertisement connects friendship, fun and laughter with a desire to have Dove chocolate. Finally, at the top of image, a tag line that reads, “Just Remember, Sharing is Caring,” bringing home the message that chocolate brings people of all walks of life closer together. Such a messages coincides with society present path towards equality, rather than exploiting the history of inequality for profit.
Kawash, Samira. “Sex and Candy.” The New York Times. Web. 08 April 2016.
Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 16: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Web. 08 April 2016.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, women, and empire: a social and cultural history. New York: Manchester University Press, 2009. 124-125. Print.
“Six Pack that Melts a Girl’s Heart.” 2007. Dove Chocolate, Mars Company. Web. 08 April 2016.
“Woman eating chocolate.” Web. 08 April 2016.