Tag Archives: ad

Virtuous Consumership of Cadbury Chocolate and the Healthwashing of Sugar

Western consumers of cacao products are no longer oblivious to the potential harms that a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates can have on the human body. Once rare in the typical cupboard, sugar has expanded its dominion to reach areas of consumership to which it was once a stranger. Observing the present day average sugar consumption of a regular American person provides a look at the immense amount of sugar (around 130 pounds every year) that people consume nowadays. For the sake of comparison, in 1822 the average American consumed 45 grams of sugar every five days, whereas present-day Americans consume around 160 grams of sugar per day, or 800 grams every five days—

sugar is bad
Infographic: The negative effects of sugar on health.

almost 18 times more than in 1822.
The increase in sugar consumption has had many causes, but a very important one was its incorporation into medicine and sweets. When medicinal properties were attributed to sugar, its consumption increased; however, research has shown that excessive consumption of sugar can have adverse effects on health. Sadly enough, the typical American diet still contains copious amounts of sugar, mainly in the form of sweetened snacks and drinks, of which the Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar poses a great example. In this essay I argue that Cadbury engages in a practice known as health-washing to encourage virtuous consumership by incentivizing their purchasers to allegedly live a healthy lifestyle thanks to Cadbury products. In the upcoming paragraphs, I will touch on the concept of health-washing and analyze an ad used by Cadbury that is an example of this practice.
The practice of health-washing consists of presenting or introducing a product as being healthier than it actually is. This can be in the form of highlighting specific nutrients, adding conceptual words to make the packaging appear healthier, or reducing the specified serving size so that the number of calories per serving becomes smaller. Nowadays, an educated consumer audience has led companies to redesign their advertisements and packages to better cater to a more conscious demographic, and deceptive advertisings have been the result of that. Let’s look at the ad used by Cadbury to advertise their Dairy Milk Bar, which has been in the market for over a hundred years:


original ad

original adoriginal ad

Original ad used by Cadbury.

As we can see from the above image, the ad depicts one and a half glasses of milk being poured into a swirly white splash that contains a Dairy Milk Bar and the phrase “a glass and a half of

got milk
Example of advertisement used by the “got milk?” campaign.

milk in every bar.” Something very interesting about this ad is that the phrase is significantly larger than the image of the chocolate bar itself—in fact, the word “milk” alone is almost the same size as the bar. This denotes the importance of
the concept of presenting the benefits of consuming a bar to an audience that understands this. It is widely accepted that the consumption of milk has benefits for human health, which has been supported by a variety of campaigns, such as “Got Milk?” from 1993, one of the most prominent nutritional campaigns that the U.S. has seen. The intentions of Cadbury with the presentation of their product as something that contains a large amount of milk are clear: they are presenting their product as a healthy edible option, potentially even as a substitution for milk in a quotidian diet. As a response to this ad, the image below was created:



parody ad
Ad created as a response to the original Cadbury ad.

This second image shows a similar color scheme, as well as the substitution of the glasses of milk by an overflowing spoonful of sugar. The phrase “Six spoonfuls of sugar in every bar” appears captured in a cloud-like white figure, reminiscent of the original ad, and shows the amount of sugar that is present in a single Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar—the information was taken from the nutritional information section of the Cadbury website. This ad aims to present one of the realities of sugar consumption in today’s industrialized-food world. The amount of sugar in one of these bars is equal to the daily recommended intake that an average adult woman should have, and almost the one for an average adult man. This is clearly a high dose of sugar for such a little bar, and the fact that Cadbury aims to disguise this fact by telling its customers that the bar contains “a glass and a half of milk” falls into the practice of health-washing, and attempts to expand its market by appealing to the virtuous practice of caring for one’s health—in this case, by drinking milk, a nutritious beverage.
While the packaging of the Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar is not deceptive, the advertisements used to sell it are. By choosing to highlight the positive qualities of the bar when the negative qualities are predominant—the bar also has extremely high contents of sodium and fat—the company chooses to present their product under a light of health consciousness when in reality, it does not differ significantly from other commercial chocolate bars. The practice of health-washing is misleading, and the Cadbury Dairy Milk Bar case is a prime example of that.


Works Cited:

Baker, Andrew. (2013). Dairy Milk versus the Hershey Bar—our verdict. Retrieved from: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/culture/andrewbakerchoc/100071490/dairy-milk-versus-the-hershey-bar-our-verdict/.

Johnson, Lisa. (2010). Healthwashing: The New Greenwashing. Retrieved from: http://www.lisajohnsonfitness.com/healthwashing-the-new-greenwashing/.

Walton, Alice G. (2012). How Much Sugar Are Americans Eating [Infographic]. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/alicegwalton/2012/08/30/how-much-sugar-are-americans-eating-infographic/#7df79d021f71.

Sashay Away, Godiva: Dismantling the “Diva” Ad Campaign

The most surprising thing about Godiva’s “diva” ad campaign isn’t the use of languid, elegant women to sell chocolate and target the female demographic. In fact, this aspirational campaign, which hopes to generate sales for small items such as individual chocolate bars and boxes of truffles, is just playing on old tropes that have long plagued chocolate advertising. Through its portrayal of upper-class, mostly light-skinned women sensually indulging in chocolate, these ads reinforce the intersection of luxury, chocolate consumption, and women’s sexuality, which must be examined for its perpetuation of problematic gendered and racial norms.

To begin with a bit of history: Godiva’s tactics are not surprising, but what may be surprising and ironic is that chocolate’s takeover of European drawing rooms was facilitated by upper-class women who brought chocolate drink recipes with them when they married into their husbands’ households—marking chocolate from its introduction as a drink reserved for the elite and wealthy (World Standards). In fact, it was not until technological innovation (conching, powdered cacoa, and transportation/storage advances) allowed chocolate to be made at a lower price point and more widely available to the working class. However, what is dismaying is how—even as chocolate became more democratic in its availability— chocolate ads continue to draw on the aristocratic, European segment of chocolate’s history. An 1870 trade card targeted at consumers (see media below) shows how chocolate was already being framed as a drink for white, upper-class, domestically-minded women. Future advertisements to follow would continue to “perpetuate western sexist and racist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption” (Robertson).


Trade card from chocolate manufacturer. Source: Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage by Louise E. Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro.
Trade card from chocolate manufacturer. Source: Chocolate: History, Culture, and Heritage by Louise E. Grivetti and Howard-Yana Shapiro.

Even today, chocolate ads cannot seem to let go of the fixation on upper-class, white women in its advertising. A great example of this is Godiva’s “diva” ads. Of the five images I have been able to find, four of them are of white women and one of a light-skinned woman who may or may not be of European origin. This blog post will focus on this image in particular:

One image from Godiva’s Diva campaign. Source: Marketing and Advertising Chocolate Group (see references at end of post).

At the most basic surface level, the ad appeals to viewers with a beautiful model and can be interpreted simply as “Treat yourself to Godiva chocolate, you wonderful diva.” The clever tagline (“every woman is one part diva, much to the dismay of every man”) seems humorous and witty. In fact, the use of “diva,” usually reserved for famous female singers or actresses, seems to engage with gender perceptions by stating that “eating this chocolate can make you a diva, a female boss.” Taken at face value, the ad sums up to read “you can be a beautiful, powerful woman—and our chocolate will help you feel that way.” When Jacqueline Lenart, vice president of marketing at Godiva North America, was asked about the ads, she said, “inside every female is a diva,” showing how the ad was supposed to promote empowerment of the “every” woman (Cho).

But a deeper, contextualized reading of this ad undermines its supposed progressiveness: if this ad is supposed to promote the idea of a diva as an influential person, then why the need to bring in the dichotomy of heteronormativity with the tagline “much to the dismay of every man”? Suddenly, the viewer is slapped back into the reality that this diva, and women in general, are objects to be consumed by the heterosexual male gaze. To appeal to this male gaze, the model poses coyly, does not seem threatening in any way, and wears sheer clothing. In fact, this ad undermines its intended uplifting message (“women can be powerful divas”) by playing on stereotypes of gender roles and juxtaposing the powerful word “diva” with a submissive woman sensually inviting the viewer into her chocolate fantasy world. Rather than empowering or celebrating women, this ad merely repeats the idea that women and chocolate are both “markers of sexual excess” (Robertson).

In addition to the ad’s gendered component, the backdrop of this ad, although blurred, also draws on themes of class and privilege in order to entice viewers. The woman sits in front of brocade wallpaper and a large vase, marking her elegant, European tastes. Behind her are chandeliers dangling with crystals, signifying her upper-class privilege. Not only does this ad reinforce gender assumptions under the guise of promoting girl power, but it also subconsciously appeals to cultural markers of race and class that are associated with its chocolate. The diva in this ad campaign is very much a wealthy, privileged, and European flavor of woman.

To push back against this ad campaign, I created my own ad featuring RuPaul, a drag queen known for his campy show “RuPaul’s drag race.”

RuPaul in Godiva's Diva ad campaign
RuPaul in Godiva’s Diva ad campaign

I believe RuPaul’s ad deconstructs the “diva” ad in several ways. First, as a black man with creole roots, RuPaul pushes back against the prevalence of beautiful white woman in chocolate ads. Additionally, RuPaul is known for his work ethic as a singer, an actor, and a drag queen—the opposite of  the leisurely, upper-class women often featured in chocolate ads. Lastly, RuPaul absolutely destroys the gendered assumptions behind the “diva” ad. RuPaul’s drag costume is not intended to appeal to heterosexual men. In fact, the slogan “every woman is a diva, much to the dismay of every man,” actually makes more sense in this ad because heterosexual men might actually be intimidated by RuPaul’s aggressive pose, instead of being enticed by yet another sultry female model. RuPaul’s fluid gender performance also undercuts any gender assumptions that a viewer might have had about women and chocolate: RuPaul’s drag performances actively dismantle heteronormative gender roles in his performances, and RuPaul refers to himself as both a man and a woman.

In summary, the intersection of white female beauty, privilege, and chocolate products is nothing new. A close reading of chocolate ad campaigns can reveal the undercurrent of race and gender assumptions in our cultural conversation. RuPaul’s ads challenges the expectations of gender in society and pushes back against the gender and class dynamics that underly chocolate advertising. Instead of Godiva’s ad, which claim to celebrate women (but actually demotes them to sexualized objects and almost exclusively cites to European tastes), RuPaul’s diva ad utilizes an actual diva who is worthy of the title.




Stratos: Make Good Better

This commercial offers a glimpse at two important points in a young boy’s life.  The commercial begins with the boy practicing soccer alone on a cold fall day when he schemes to combat his loneliness.  The viewer watches the boy’s plan unfold.  Then the commercial skips about 9 months to a scene with his family when the boy’s plan is fully realized.  Watch this heartfelt commercial below:

This ad is for Stratos chocolate, a Norwegian chocolate bar distributed by Nidar.

Nidar Stratos Chocolate

Unfortunately, I could not find out when or where this commercial was aired.  This commercial is long compared to most 30-second ads that air.  This ad is 1 minute and 20 seconds.  There is surprisingly little research that has been done regarding the lengths of commercials (Zhou), but from my own experience, somebody who did not feel an emotional connection to this commercial would lose interest in it after the first minute.  The bored viewer would never even see chocolate in the advertisement—it’s not until the last 5 seconds that chocolate makes its appearance in this commercial! This length enables the commercial to appeal to the viewer who feels a connection with the child, the parents, or the story.  I think that this appeals to mothers of young children, and especially mothers who worry about the happiness of their children.  I know that when I watched the “P&G Thank You, Mom” commercials with my mom, she was really touched.  (If you’re interested, watch the one a ski racer I grew up with, Mikaela Shiffrin here!)

The boy in this commercial is good at soccer-he has a great shot and he scores.  When he scores, he is excited, but he is overcome with a sense of loneliness.  Practicing soccer alone day after day must be taking a toll on this child.  The boy gets his ball from the goal, and an idea pops into his head.  Suddenly soccer is no longer important. He storms home, abandons his soccer ball in the entrance, and gets to work preparing a romantic dinner for his parents.  The commercial shows the boy cooking pasta, setting the table, and putting together the finishing touches, all the while struggling to do so because he is too small for the kitchen and he has no companion to help him.  There is a natural ending place in the commercial when the boy pretends to yawn, thereby giving himself an excuse to leave his parents alone, to dim their bedroom light, and go to bed.  This happens after about a minute of the commercial.  But the commercial continues, much to the surprise of the viewer.  In the ensuing scene, the boy and his father walk into a hospital.  The boy is distressed and seems very unhappy.  When he shoves the door into his mother’s hospital room, he barely makes eye contact with her, ignores her attempt to reach out to him, and walks past her and around her bed.  In this tense scene, the viewer realizes the mother is in the hospital with a newborn child.   The viewer also realizes that the parents are probably very concerned that their eldest son will not accept the new sibling.  On the other side of the hospital bed, the boy inspects the crib.  When he realizes he has a new brother, the boy nods his approval to his parents and gently places a pair of soccer cleats on the stomach of the newborn.  This comes as an enormous relief, both to the parents and to the viewer, leaving all involved stunned.  The commercial pans to a view of the boy pulling a Stratos chocolate bar from his shorts pocket.  He opens the bar, takes a bite, and plops down on a chair in the hospital room.  At this point, there are only several seconds left in the commercial.  In the remaining time, the slogan “makes good better” is displayed to the viewer.

This commercial is long, involved, and nuanced.  It took me several viewings to appreciate the commercial.  At first I thought it was cute but I didn’t realize how much the commercial was about the little boy scheming.  One aspect of the commercial that I didn’t immediately pic up on is the boy’s clothing.  In the soccer scene, the boy wears his manchester United jersey over a sweatshirt.  In the hospital, the boy wears the same shirt, but with no undershirt.  My guess is this is exactly 9 months after the lonely soccer day.  Perhaps this red jersey is used to trick the viewer into thinking the commercial is for Vodafone, leaving the chocolate as a surprise for those who pay attention to the end of the commercial.  Another part of the commercial that was not apparent in the beginning is that the boy doesn’t make dinner with the sole intention to impress his parents.  He constructs an evening for his parents to feel close to each other, appreciate their child, and decide to move to the bedroom to try and have another child.  This boy is very enterprising, discrete, clever, and creative.  The chocolate brings out the best of these qualities-it “makes good better.”

The commercial leaves the viewer with the notion that chocolate was responsible for the angel-like characteristics of the boy.   This still advertisement helps somebody who has been exposed to the commercial make sense of it by guiding them with the familiar “if you give a mouse a cookie…” book model.


In Emma Robertson’s book entitled Chocolate, women, and empire: a social and cultural history, one of they types of chocolate advertisements Robertson describes is those of Rowntree in the 1930s that featured children, especially girls, helping their parents in “gendered ways” (Robertson 21).  In this specific Stratos chocolate ad, the young boy performs household tasks to compel his parents to have another child.  This commercial is interesting because while it features a child helping his parents, the child has an ulterior motive that is not apparent until a close analysis of the ad.  This commercial does not have any racial undertones, which seems rare in chocolate advertisements.   Perhaps this is because the intended audience is European, not American.  The only time in this commercial there is speaking is when the boy exclaims “Yes!” when he scores a goal.  The music is in English, but this ad was probably aired in a country where English is not the primary language.  Combined with the Manchester United jersey and the English music, perhaps the creator of this ad was trying to present the chocolate in an English light to appeal further to a subset of mother consumers.



Works Cited

Robertson, Emma.  Chocolate, women, and empire: A social and cultural history.  Manchester University Press.  2009.

Zhou, Wen.  The Choice of Commercial Breaks in Television Programs: The Number, Length, and Timing.  The Journal of Industrial Economics, Vol. 51, No. 3.  September 2004.  Paes 315-326.