Mars’ global confectionery sales was a whopping $18.4 billion USD in 2015, according to the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO), more than doubling Hershey’s sales of the same year. An impressive feat given that Mars is still family owned, the 3rd richest family in America, in fact. To maintain its global dominance, the company heavily invests in advertisement. In the 3 years leading up to 2013, Mars spent an estimated $7.28 billion worldwide, using the familiar trope of linking their products to Hollywood celebrities. For its 2016 Snickers campaign, aired during the 50th edition of the NFL Super Bowl, the company once again featured a host of iconic figures, this time including Willem Dafoe and Marilyn Monroe. See their Snicker ad below:
This is not, by any means, Mars’ first attempt at associating its products with familiar faces. For its 2013 UK Galaxy campaign, the chocolate giant contracted with the world’s best, AMV BBDO (ad agency) and Framestore (special effects), bringing Audrey Hepburn “back to life” to promote their products in the UK.
But who are the true faces behind chocolate? Who are the real celebrities responsible for providing the world with one of its most favorite treat? Albeit Mars’ promise of taking “very seriously” the marketing of their brand, “providing you and your family with suitable and transparent information about [their] products,” they have, in my eyes, grossly misrepresented the true heroes behind chocolate. May I present, as an alternative to Mars’, my own original ad below, depicting some of “The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate.”
Unlike those chosen by Mars in its Snicker ad, or like those chosen by many of the other chocolate companies for their campaigns, the stars in my counter ad portray a range of contrasting complexions, are not primarily Caucasian, and hail from a vastly different socioeconomic stratum.
How does Mars, in 2016, in good conscience, create a Super Bowl commercial, primarily directed to an American audience, without featuring a single person of color, given that “African-Americans… currently comprise 67.3% of the league’s players,” according to sports and entertainment attorney Jaia Thomas. There is much irony to Mars’ homogeneous selection of ethnicity, especially given that the Global South, who are primarily non-Caucasian, grows 100% of the world’s cacao. People of color were therefore intentionally included in my ad to appropriately and responsibly represent the many hues and races who are at the core of the chocolate supply chain, Mars’ included.
Mars attempts to associate their product with fame, affluence, and eroticism, using the iconic imagery of one of Hollywood’s most memorable senses. Yet it is Willem Dafoe, another iconic celebrity, who is in the famous white dress standing over the subway grate. It’s only after his cranky ranting that he takes a bite of the Snickers bar and once again becomes Marilyn Monroe. It is an obvious tongue-in-cheek attempt by the company to hearken back to the “good ole days.” The quintessential cantankerous, white, male director refers to the only woman on the set as “sweetheart.” Dafoe takes a bite of the bar and is transformed back to the beauty of the “true woman” that Monroe represents: doe-eyed, coquettish, sensuous and vacuous. The ad portrays a woman who is only likable if she eats chocolate, but unsightly and manly when she complains. Mars unfortunately falls into the sexist, racist, and classist trappings of so many other marketing schemes.
My ad was created to hopefully push back on these shortcomings. It was created to heighten public awareness of some of the true faces behind cacao production and its supply chain, depicting the beautiful and vibrant colors of not only the pod themselves, but also the farmers that come from Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia. In contrast to the Mars ad, the women in my ad are not monomorphic, they bear a range of shapes and sizes. The women are hardworking, people of the earth, not affected by over-grooming, and are comprised of various ages. My intention was to portray a truer depiction of the women who are intrinsically involved in the world’s chocolate making.
I also wish to illustrate the wealth disparity between cacao growers and Mars. And furthermore, hope to underscore the vast socioeconomic disconnect between these rich chocolate companies and their marketing strategies versus the earnings of cacao growers. In 2014, the chocolate industry grew to a record high of $100 billion, growing by $20 billion in a single year, according to the European Campaign for Fair Chocolate. While cacao growers, on the other hand, earned less than they once did in the 1980s, currently at $1.25/day, a meager six cents on the dollar from the finish product. In other words, these massive chocolate companies, in particular Mars, have profited greatly these past decades, while the earnings of millions of impoverished men, women and children have diminished.
Addressing such issues as sexism, racism and classism is complex. It calls for a rigorous and courageous examination of the systemic social reproduction of skewed ideals and misrepresentations of others. These issues involve policy changes from all levels of society, including the smallest jurisdiction of cacao shareholders at the local level, all the way up to the national level, and supported by international accords to guide good practices at every stage of the final product, explains chocolate scholar Dr. Carla Martin. And that includes marketing. Mars does not bare the full onus of bringing about that change. We must all play our part, growers, manufacturers, consumers and governments alike. Nonetheless, because of Mars’ global position, the company must bare its share of responsibilities, and must strive to become a proactive player in effecting change. And that can first begin with a rethinking of their marketing campaigns, to communicate a message that is gender empowering, positive and fair, a message to affect both consumers and competitors alike.
 “The Chocolate Industry: Who Are the Main Manufacturers of Chocolate in the World?,” International Cocoa Organization, January 28, 2016, http://www.icco.org/about-cocoa/chocolate-industry.html.
 “Mars Inc.advertising Spending Worldwide from 2011 to 2014,” Statista, 2016, http://www.statista.com/statistics/286558/mars-inc-advertising-spending-worldwide/.
 Edward Enriquez, “The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate,” Prezi, April 7, 2016, https://prezi.com/avzqbzhyhvcw/the-real-celebrities-behind-chocolate/.
 Jaia Thomas, “In Black and White: A Racial Breakdown of the NFL,” UPTOWN Magazine, October 1, 2014, http://uptownmagazine.com/2014/10/racial-breakdown-of-the-nfl-report-card/.
 “Cocoa Prices and Income of Farmers,” Make Chocolate Fair! European Campaign for Fair Chocolate, accessed April 8, 2016, http://makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers-0.
 Frank Mechielsen, “New Ways to Sweeten the Deal for Women Cocoa Farmers,” Oxfam America | The Politics of Poverty Blog, June 19, 2014, http://politicsofpoverty.oxfamamerica.org/2014/06/new-ways-sweeten-deal-women-cocoa-farmers/.
 Carla D Martin, “Lecture 6: Slavery Abolition and Forced Labor” (Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Harvard University, March 9, 2016). See also her blog, Bittersweet Notes, to learn more about chocolate, culture, and the politics of food.
Audrey Hepburn: Galaxy Chocolate Commercial, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gx9eDoS76LM.
“Cocoa Prices and Income of Farmers.” Make Chocolate Fair! European Campaign for Fair Chocolate. Accessed April 8, 2016. http://makechocolatefair.org/issues/cocoa-prices-and-income-farmers-0.
Enriquez, Edward. “The Real Celebrities Behind Chocolate.” Prezi, April 7, 2016. https://prezi.com/avzqbzhyhvcw/the-real-celebrities-behind-chocolate/.
“Mars Family | 2015 America’s Richest Families.” Business News. Forbes. Accessed April 8, 2016. http://www.forbes.com/profile/mars-1/.
“Mars Inc.advertising Spending Worldwide from 2011 to 2014.” Statista, 2016. http://www.statista.com/statistics/286558/mars-inc-advertising-spending-worldwide/.
Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 6: Slavery Abolition and Forced Labor.” presented at the Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food, Harvard University, March 9, 2016.
Mechielsen, Frank. “New Ways to Sweeten the Deal for Women Cocoa Farmers.” Oxfam America | The Politics of Poverty Blog, June 19, 2014. http://politicsofpoverty.oxfamamerica.org/2014/06/new-ways-sweeten-deal-women-cocoa-farmers/.
“Snickers®.” Snickers, 2016. https://www.snickers.com/.
SnickersBrand. SNICKERS® – “Marilyn,” 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WhfntLl6xx0.
“The Chocolate Industry: Who Are the Main Manufacturers of Chocolate in the World?” International Cocoa Organization, January 28, 2016. http://www.icco.org/about-cocoa/chocolate-industry.html.
Thomas, Jaia. “In Black and White: A Racial Breakdown of the NFL.” UPTOWN Magazine, October 1, 2014. http://uptownmagazine.com/2014/10/racial-breakdown-of-the-nfl-report-card/.