Since the Victorian era, chocolate advertising has been slanted towards a female consumer audience. By the end of the 1860s, John Cadbury created and marketed the first heart-shaped box of chocolates for sale on Valentine’s Day which began to center the focus of marketing towards women as well as women involved in heterosexual relationships (Coe and Coe). As chocolate became a more popular sweet, advertising to the female population became a more popular marketing strategy.
Consumers are not “passive recipients of goods,” in fact, consumers use goods as a way to express identity; however, goods may define consumer perceptions of social meanings such as family dynamics, the social world and even the identity of the consumer herself (Robertson 19). This marketing curve towards women resultantly developed a social construction of women as impulsive, emotional consumers who tend to buy products on a more desire-based foundation than male consumers. Chocolate manufacturers often plea to stereotypical and dramatized qualities in women such as a heightened perception of body image, high emotionality, a desire to be comforted and their sexuality. Advertisements use chocolate to represent the fulfillment of hidden and subdued sexual desires and, by doing so, degrade the female consumer into a sex-driven, unsatisfied, impulsive consumer who will buy food products in an attempt to allow herself indulge in her pleasure. These advertising strategies have resultantly created real, permeating social constructs that alter the general perception of how a woman will react to the temptations of both chocolate and sex.
Women, particularly single women, are culturally constructed as constantly negotiating temptation it is their responsibility to maintain a pure body by resting male sexual advances except within marriage, and afterwards to remain monogamous. In the later twentieth century it has extended to maintaining ‘beauty’ by resisting the temptation of sweet and fatty foods such as chocolate. Succumbing to chocolate addiction momentarily allows the pleasurable surrender to such temptation. (Robertson 35)
Advertising to women can take many forms. The addition of chocolate into a woman’s day can range from comforting and relaxing, as shown in this Dove commercial:
to a slightly more sensual and elegant experience, as shown here:
to the most prominent and notable portrayal of the borderline orgasmic experience of a woman eating chocolate:
As shown in the last video, chocolate has been transformed into an object of lust, as a commodity that will both reward and satisfy the insatiable female sexual appetite. Buying and consuming chocolate is portrayed to be the sexual experience women are apparently missing in life. Chocolate’s reputation as an aphrodisiac allow advertisers to play on the idea that it will both heighten a woman’s sensuality and upgrade her beauty as well as allow herself to finally indulge in her sinful sexual desires. Bringing sexuality to the scene under the disguise of enjoyment of food reflects the idea that a woman’s sexuality is often hidden from the public eye. Sex and sexuality are very private ideas, especially for “respectable,” women, so market teams encourage women to finally give in to their lust for the forbidden- both chocolate (chocolate is forbidden due to its undesirable fattening qualities) and sex.
This ad for Ferrero Rocher begs women to “Redeem,” their “sin.” The surface meaning is a ploy to collect participants for a contest through which a consumer can win a prize after consuming Ferrero’s “sinful,” chocolate; however, the use of the word “sin,” accompanied by the sexualized nature of the model implies that her “sin,” is more than chocolate consumption. The dark color scheme of the ad supports this association of chocolate with sinfulness, obscurity, and intrigue. Although the advertisement objectifies the portrayal of this woman model, it is clearly aimed to target a female audience by both encouraging them to embrace their sensual nature and to redeem their own sins. This advertisement degrades the female consumer into a very sex-driven, sensual being.
I have created an advertisement that parodies this idea of hyper sexualization of women, especially for the purchase of a simple food good such as chocolate. Here, we have a female model, similarly posed to the model in the Ferrero ad, who does not present any striking references to her sexuality. Her hand is not placed near her lower body; in fact, she is eating the chocolate being advertised. Although I chose to use a female model to parallel the original advertisement, the revised female model portrays a more realistic connection between her feminine identity and chocolate. She does not sexualize her experience of eating chocolate, nor does her posture imply that she is indulging sinful desires. She will most likely to female consumers more than male consumers due to her identity; however, there is not the same obvious gendered target as is apparent in the Ferrero advertisement. I chose to have this woman pose in a white sheet, rather than a dark sheet, to go against the inclusion of color themes that play on the sinful, dark nature of chocolate and sex. Here, the white sheet creates a more straightforward tone in the picture. I have also replace the script slogan of “Redeem Your Sin,” with “Because it is just chocolate,” to reiterate the idea that the act of a woman eating chocolate is not an earth-shattering representation of a sexual experience. This portrayal is a much more realistic depiction of a female consumer enjoying chocolate. It fights against the current of hyper-sexualizing women in chocolate ads and does not support the social construct of women as impulsive, sexual consumers who indulge in chocolate to replicate forbidden sexual desires.
Coe, Sophie D., and Michael D. Coe. The True History of Chocolate. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1996. Print.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2009. Print.