The Many Problems of One Snickers Ad

The Snickers “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign has many problems. It often draws humor from an outdated male/female dichotomy, is unfairly dismissive of negative emotions, and depicts unhappy characters placated by chocolate. A much more responsible way for Snickers to execute their “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” ads would be through absurdist humor.

All of the problems of the “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign can be seen in one of the most recent “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” ads: “Marilyn”.

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 4.52.20 PMWatch the full ad here!

This ad takes place on the recreated set from The Seven Year Itch, the film that gave American pop culture the iconic image of Marilyn Monroe holding down her dress over a subway grate. Pre-Snickers Marilyn Monroe is played by Willem Dafoe. Post-Snickers Marilyn Monroe is digitally recreated out of actual footage of Marilyn Monroe.The ad follows the usual “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” structure: it opens on a cranky, pre-Snickers Marilyn Monroe who, after being given a Snickers bar, becomes a beautiful and very agreeable post-Snickers Marilyn Monroe.

The first, very obvious problem with this ad is that it derives humor from pre-Snickers Marilyn Monroe being depicted as a gruff man. It’s important to note that there is nothing inherently wrong with Marilyn Monroe being played by Willem Dafoe. However using different genders to imply radical differences has serious implications in our society today: it reinforces a gross oversimplification of gender and the traditional dichotomous gender paradigm (that is oppressive[1]).

The second problem with this ad is its dismissal of negative emotions. After pre-Snickers Marilyn Monroe complains about having to stand on a grate with heels on, she is approached with a Snickers bar and told “you get a little cranky when you’re hungry”. The fact that Marilyn Monroe’s complaining is taken as crankiness that could only be caused by hunger normalizes the dismissal of bad moods as simple moments of irrationality. This is unhealthy for our culture; research has shown that taking the time to understand negative emotions can be essential for mental health[2].

The last problem with this ad is directly tied to the dismissal of negative emotions. This ad falls into the toxic trope of showing somebody unhappy quickly placated through an easy solution. In real life, these “quick fixes” almost always leave underlying issues unaddressed and may cause greater problems later on. As noted above, a greater understanding of negative emotions would be preferable. Additionally, in this ad, the presented “quick fix” is even more problematic because Marilyn Monroe is a woman who, given chocolate, becomes “reasonable” again. Scenarios where “crazed/unhappy” women are “sedated/pleasured” with chocolate are common in chocolate ads[3] and unhealthy for our society as they continue the grand old tradition of dismissing and/or easily manipulating women.

After exploring the many problems of Hershey’s “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign, it might seem as if there is no way to save it. However- good news! –that’s absolutely false. The secret to solving the many problems of these ads is to simply turn to absurdist humor. For example, have pre-Snickers Marilyn Monroe be a tree:

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 6.08.28 PM

Given a Snickers bar, the tree could become a wonderful, post-Snickers Marilyn Monroe. A similar approach to all “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” ads would eliminate tricky problems with dismissal of negative emotion and representation of gender and derive humor from sheer ridiculousness.

(Also, let’s be honest: Willem Dafoe being Marilyn? Kind of funny. An ad in which somebody offers a tree a Snickers bar and says, “Marilyn, you’re not you when you’re hungry”? Very, very funny.)






[1] Burdge, B. J. “Bending Gender, Ending Gender: Theoretical Foundations for Social Work Practice with the Transgender Community.” Social Work52.3 (2007): 243-50. Web.

[2] Rodriguez, Tori. “Negative Emotions Are Key to Well-Being.” Scientific American. Nature America, Inc, May 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.

[3] Martin, Carla D. “Women Alone with Chocolate in TV Commercials.” : Bittersweet Notes. WordPress, 7 June 2012. Web. 08 Apr. 2016.als

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