Tag Archives: ads

Naughty but Nice: Gendered Sexualization in Chocolate Advertising

Chocolate is recognized as one of the most craved foods in the world, resulting in the coinage of terms such as chocoholic or chocolate addict. However, going from targeted marketing by most chocolate companies around the world, one would assume that the majority of the chocolate addicts or chocoholics were, women. As soon as a woman takes her first bite, in an advertisement, a sense of ecstasy follows triggered by the chocolate, invariably showing the relationship between women’s sexual pleasure and chocolate. Women’s sexual pleasure, much like the attitude towards chocolate, is considered sinful; the juxtaposition of these two views woven into narratives through chocolate commercials, only solidifies the concept of “naughty but nice” as they objectify women sexually while they are consuming chocolate.

Women tend to be sexually depicted in commercials in two ways, one, in which women are aroused by consuming chocolate, or two, women become attractive to men after they consume chocolate. Below are examples of two ads from Dove and Godiva that exemplify these two categories of portrayal of women in chocolate advertising. 

In both the commercials, chocolate is seen as a sinful treat that women consume. In the first Dove commercial, a woman is being wrapped in chocolate coloured silk as she sighs and savors the luxury of consuming chocolate whilst being wrapped around by a luxurious fabric. It is depicting the after effects of consuming the chocolate whilst showing what a privilege it is to be able to consume chocolate. The background music and noises further alludes to the effect of sexual arousal post consumption and the use of silk in the commercial shows luxury and class, and at the same time, it represents a material that is often used to portray sex. In the Godiva commercial, three women are shown in three different locations wearing long dresses that represent three kinds of Godiva chocolates; dark, milk and white. Three men can be seen gifting chocolates to the women, which in turn sexually arouses the women and thus excites the men. It is interesting to note that the commercial does not show men consuming the chocolate, but only women. In one instance in the commercial, one of the women almost shares the chocolate with the man but then teases him as she eats the whole truffle herself, because she just cannot share it or resist it.

Professor Peter Rogers, from the University of Bristol, explains: “A more compelling explanation lies in our ambivalent attitudes towards chocolate – it is highly desired but should be eaten with restraint”, he further states that “Our unfulfilled desire to eat chocolate, resulting from restraint, is thus experienced as craving, which in turn is attributed to ‘addiction’.” (Rogers, 2007) Women in the above commercials depict this relationship of resistance and indulgence with chocolate, not only through the consumption of chocolate itself but also through their sexual desires. Due to the perception that “nice” women and their sexual pleasures should be restrained as opposed to men’s sexual pleasures, chocolate gives them the narrative, the chance of indulgence, and gives them the opportunity to be “naughty”. Chocolate then starts to show women’s relationship with their own sexual desires, that relies on chocolate to be fueled.

Chocolate, then hence is portrayed to being the food for women by commercials. In contrast, a Burger King commercial shows meat as the food for men, aptly titled “I am Man”. The commercial shows men eating burgers while chanting socially accepted norms that make them men; these are men who are strong and can lift cars and pull heavy weights, men who cannot survive on “chick food” such as quiche. Commercials such as the one by Hungry Man, as well as Mc Donald’s McRib advertisement, show only men, consuming meat products. When catered to men such as the ones that are shown in these commercials, chocolate becomes delicate and feminine. When contrasted, meat becomes the socially accepted food for men while chocolate becomes the socially accepted food for women. 

Without any concrete scientific evidence, chocolate is now widely believed to be craved by women more than men. Dr. Julia Hormes from University of Albany states in her study published in Appetite in 2011 that “half of the women [in the U.S.] who crave chocolate say they do so right around menstruation,”. (Hormes, 2011) Hormes’s study tried to correlate menstruation with chocolate craving however, she arrived at the conclusion that “These biochemical, physiological hypotheses didn’t pan out.”  (Hormes, 2011) Hormes believes that the strong influence of culture, particularly the kind portrayed in commercials plays a role in how women tend to react to chocolate.

In an interview with Kate Bratskeir of Huffington Post, Hormes talks about chocolate marketing, she says;

“Chocolate is marketed as a way for women to deal with negative emotion (like, say, the stress and headaches that come with PMS), Hormes said. It is an “indulgence” because it is an exception to the rule — women who diet and subscribe to a certain ideal of beauty should only consume chocolate when they “need” it.”…“Only in America. In Spain, for example, women don’t report craving chocolate perimensturally nearly as much as women in the U.S. do. It’s not that Spanish women have a different make-up to their cycle, it’s really that tampon and chocolate ads aren’t aired during the same commercial break. In the U.S., it seems, there’s something so strongly feminine about chocolate that fewer men report wanting it. But, “Spanish men are almost as likely to crave chocolate as Spanish women.” In Egypt, neither men nor women really report craving chocolate; “They tend to crave savory foods,” Hormes said.” (Hormes, 2011)

The need that is described above by Hormes is a culturally manufactured one that is fabricated through commercials showing women needing chocolates, specially when it comes to sex.

Ferrero Rocher Print ad. https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/12/02/guest-post-sex-desire-and-chocolate-propaganda-research/

Chocolate advertisements not only play into women’s sexual desires but also women’s body image and various insecurities. The above print ad from Ferrero Rocher shows a naked model being tempted by chocolates that are growing from the tree. The ad is attaching the narrative of Eve and the forbidden fruit to chocolate, depicting this woman as a “sinner” for consuming chocolate and having sexual desires. The ad also shows a skinny model indulging in the sinful act of consuming chocolate. The inclusion of a model, gives off an image that makes it okay for women of regular sizes to indulge in chocolate. It shows that women can still be thin and be naughty, and consume chocolate as a guilty pleasure. While talking about the relationship of female body image and chocolate marketing, in his paper, Occidental College student, Jamal Fahim writes,

In order to remain slim and attractive, women must avoid foods that are high in fat, sugar and calories. Images of the ideal body have permeated the minds of many consumers who are inclined to view the body as an object of admiration and a model for self-construction. Moreover, consumer goods may serve to compensate for a person’s “feelings of inferiority, insecurity or loss, or to symbolize achievement, success or power” (Campbell 1995:111)”.

Dove Print ad. https://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2010/12/02/guest-post-sex-desire-and-chocolate-propaganda-research/

Chocolate companies tend to play up various different feelings that Campbell described whilst talking about consumer products, however in most cases those feelings within the wide spectrum from insecurity to success are usually related to sex and women in chocolate advertising. The print Dove advertisement above, for example, associates itself with an insecurity that is often linked with sex, lasting longer. The ad compares indulging the Dove bar to lasting longer while showing the face of a woman who is satisfied.

All the advertisements mentioned above adds to the misconception of chocolate as an aphrodisiac and that it works more on women. The New York Times article, tries to evaluate this claim stating;

“Nowadays, scientists ascribe the aphrodisiac qualities of chocolate, if any, to two chemicals it contains. One, tryptophan, is a building block of serotonin, a brain chemical involved in sexual arousal. The other, phenylethylamine, a stimulant related to amphetamine, is released in the brain when people fall in love. But most researchers believe that the amounts of these substances in chocolate are too small to have any measurable effect on desire. Studies that have looked for a direct link between chocolate consumption and heightened sexual arousal have found none. The most recent study, published in May in the journal Sexual Medicine, looked specifically at women, who are thought to be more sensitive to the effects of chocolate. The researchers, from Italy, studied a random sample of 163 adult women with an average age of 35 and found no significant differences between reported rates of sexual arousal or distress among those who regularly consumed one serving of chocolate a day, those who consumed three or more servings or those who generally consumed none.” (O’ Connor, 2006)

The article concludes by stating that, “if chocolate has any aphrodisiac qualities, they are probably psychological, not physiological” (O’ Connor, 2006).

This psychological perception of chocolate and sex is one that is manufactured by chocolate advertising bringing out various themes that are associated with female sexuality starting from the perception that female sexual desires are akin to a sin, to body image issues that perpetuates women’s need to be slim to various other insecurities associated with sex such as lasting longer or overall satisfaction. Even though the findings and correlation between chocolate and sex are negligible, the marketing for chocolate continues to perpetuate chocolate’s association with sex and its implied special relevance to women’s sexuality as it plays into societal expectations from women, that require them to be and make them more attractive if they are “naughty but nice”.

Work Cited:

Bratskeir, Kate. “This Is Why Women Crave Chocolate, Men Want A Burger” Huffington Post. 2014. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/11/10/chocolate-craving-pms-men-vegetables_n_6102714.html&gt;

Campbell, Colin. 1995. “The Sociology of Consumption.” Acknowledging Consumption: A Review of New Studies. London, England: Routledge.

Fahim, Jamal, “Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing”. 2010. Sociology Student Scholarship <http://scholar.oxy.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=sociology_student&gt;

Hormes, Julia M, Alix Timko. “All cravings are not created equal. Correlates of menstrual versus non-cyclic chocolate craving”. Appetite. Vol 57. 2011. <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21440592&gt;

Lindell, C.  Women and chocolate: A history lesson. Candy Industry, 180(3), 21. 2015

O’Connor, Anahad. “The Claim: Chocolate Is an Aphrodisiac”. The New York Times. 2006. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/18/health/18real.html&gt;

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women, and Empire. New York: Manchester UP, 2009. 

University of Bristol. “Chocolate Is The Most Widely Craved Food, But Is It Really Addictive?.” ScienceDaily. September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070911073921.htm>.



What Do You See?

Chocolate seems to permeate our lives. It saturates the grocery shelves during the holiday seasons and appears on our television screens. It is a true constant in our rapidly-changing world. Because our modern world is always developing, how has chocolate maintained permanent-product status? The easy answer is: sugar. Several hundred years ago when sugar first emerged onto the European food scene, it was a new and exciting ingredient from Mesoamerica that served many uses. It began as an expensive superfluous supplement to the natural European diet, but after two centuries, sugar had become a staple to the English diet and essential to the rest of Europe (Prof. Martin Lecture). This kind of integration was not isolated to sugar. Chocolate made the journey from a fancy, elite delicacy to a common household item… or so it seems. As this article of fun facts reveals, Modern day “Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year, or over 11 pounds per person” which is much more than the average for Europeans. I argue that although statistics show that the common person consumes great amounts of chocolate, it still retains its original status as a highbrow item despite its price. This is best showcased by the chocolate sections at CVS.

There are a couple of different places to find chocolate at CVS, each with their own chief marketing purpose. The first is in the candy aisle. Here you can find the label “bagged chocolate” and see an assortment of chocolate from big, well-known companies like Hershey, Reese’s, etc. They all have seemingly endless variations of dark, milk, and white chocolate, sometimes mixed with peanut butter, nuts, or other embellishments. As you walk into the aisle, the sheer amount of options is overwhelming. The range of your selection makes them all seem to blend together. It is even hard to read each label individually because your eye is constantly being drawn elsewhere by cartoon images and bright colors. Eventually, you just go with what you know. This is either a run-of-the-mill choice like plain milk chocolate or something slightly more niche like salted caramel dark chocolate. In the case of a more niche preference, you will likely already know its position in the aisle because it does not change. Never at eye-level, your bag of salted caramel dark chocolate is eternally juxtaposed to the bag of mint milk chocolate, both sold by the same company. At any given CVS, they will sometimes be on a high level but more often than not, they will be off to the side. This particular bag of chocolate will reside at shin-level so you have to bend down to pick it up. It never goes on sale. But your friend has a slightly different experience. You see, she is a big fan of Hershey’s Dark Chocolate, no almonds or other extras. She needs two bags because finals are coming up and she stress eats when she feels bloated. She turns into the candy aisle, finds the sign indicating the chocolate, and walks right up to inspect her choices. She does not have to look for long. As she glances to the side, her eyes find the Hershey’s label and her brain immediately recognizes the color. She grabs two bags since there is a sale that applies to this type of chocolate (second bag is 50% off!) and you both head to the front of the store to pay.

Photo taken by me.

Now let’s say that you and your friend prefer the finer things in life. Pretend that there has been a tragic epidemic and every chocolatier in your immediate vicinity has been destroyed. This leaves CVS as your only option for buying chocolate. The two of you cannot eat “commoners chocolate,” whatever that means (you and your friend are chocolate-snobs) so you head to the “Premium Chocolates” stand that CVS has on display. There is a notable absence of plastic bags and cartoon labels, no bright colors that remind you of late Halloween nights. The characteristics of this section that stand out to you are the highbrow-looking packaging, lack of “Big Chocolate” name brands (or so you think), and the fact that the vast majority of the packaging features some sort of picture of smooth chocolate.

Photo taken by me.

Because you and your friend prefer everyone to know the percentage of cocoa that your chocolate is, you grab a package from eye-level that advertises “85% Cocoa” in big, bold letters beneath the word “Excellence” written in a super fancy script font. This chocolate is slightly pricier than the chocolate in other areas of CVS so you and your friend agree to split the bag. Then you both head to the counter to pay.

In both situations, you have to pass the “impulse buy” test. As you wait in line to pay, you are surrounded by shelves of mini-sized candy. It is a slue of small packaging, with candy, gum, donuts, and chocolate all mixed together. The gum is at the top because it is the easiest to justify in a situation where you need to freshen up your breath. Directly below the gum are four entire shelves of candy, mostly chocolate. This is a departure from the fancy marketing you saw earlier. It is a return to the “Big Chocolate” name brands like Hershey. In contrast to the chocolate aisle, this chocolate is being sold in much smaller quantities. Its small size and location in the store point to a popular marketing ploy that stores like to use, especially in America. In America, we are very susceptible to the “impulse buy.” It is very easy to justify buying a small chocolate candy bar on your way out of CVS than buying a whole bag. Even further, these candies are not at adult-eye level but they are positioned perfectly to draw the attention of any child who walks past them. You, however, are not a child. You wait your turn and pay for your chocolate at the cash register. Then you leave CVS, concluding your shopping experience.

Photo taken by me.

These elaborate scenarios showcase various ways that chocolate plays a part in our everyday lives. For instance, the way that companies choose to visually represent their chocolate speaks to how we perceive chocolate. The “Premium Chocolates” section is a perfect example of this. In “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics”, Mary Norton discusses how sociologists and cultural historians “have eschewed biological or economic determinism and instead theorize taste as socially constructed” (Norton, 663). She uses Mintz’ work on sugar’s development “from a medicinal additive to a luxury good among the upper classes” to complement his argument that “sugar ‘embodied the social position of the wealthy and powerful.’ He points to ‘sugar’s usefulness as a mark of rank—to validate one’s social position. To elevate others, or to define them as inferior.’” (Norton/Mintz). This seems antiquated to us in modern day but it really holds true to society’s perception of chocolate. If you take into account the countless ads like this one that present chocolate as a luxury item that should be desired, then it becomes easier to see why presenting their product as “Premium Chocolates” is an effective marketing tactic used by Lindt and Ghirardelli in CVS.

Looking at this commercial, the first thing to notice is the incredible CGI they have used to recreate Audrey Hepburn, an icon of class and elegance. There is classic music playing in the background. Audrey Hepburn leaves the public transport bus and makes the transition into a handsome man’s car where he proceeds to act as her chauffeur as she eats chocolate in the backseat. This is a very clear way of associating chocolate with a certain lavish lifestyle that mirrors the purpose of the upscale display at CVS. This demonstrates how chocolate is still thought of as a luxury good despite its frequency.

Similarly, you can discern the intended audience from the location and price of the chocolate. In the chocolate aisle and the section right before the cash register, the position of the chocolate can reveal many things. If it is at eye-level for an adult, odds are that product is very popular. An example of this is the Hershey’s chocolate staple: plain dark chocolate. If the product is more particular, it is likely that it will be on a different shelf in order to make room for the standard products. One exception to this rule is when products are placed at the eye-level of children. Today, ads everywhere target kids because they want to create costumers for life. This has various ethical complications, not the least of which are explored in the article “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies” by Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens. Their article describes the way sugar’s detrimental effects on public health were covered up by greedy corporations. Along the way, scientific research has found that “sugar and its nearly chemically identical cousin, HFCS, may very well cause diseases that kill hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, and that these chronic conditions would be far less prevalent if we significantly dialed back our consumption of added sugars” (Taubes). The ethical complications arise when the companies knowlingly advertised their product that contained unhealthy ingredients without making the public fully aware of their effects. There is also research that links the overconsumption of sucrose and HFCS to obesity and type 2 diabetes, both of which disproportionately affect young people. Ad campaigns like this one from Cadbury target young people in an effort to foster a relationship between the child and the brand so that as an adult, their potential purchasing power increases because of their trained loyalty to the specific company.

The ad works likes a commercial to kids for kids. The use of children and upbeat music to advertise chocolate is a convincing strategy to associate chocolate with fun. This targeting of children as consumers is demonstrated in stores like CVS where chocolate is placed in the perfect position for children to recognize them from ads on television and the internet.

Chocolate might seem like a normal treat that you indulge in after a difficult day, but if you look deeper into your own perception of chocolate, you will learn that it is integral to multiple societal structures. Not only can you see from the different placements of chocolate in CVS that it is associated with elitism and opulence, but it is also incredibly gendered. This post on reddit.com by user Te1221 establishes the subconscious connection between chocolate and women.

Reddit, posted by user Te1221 in 2014.

The caption is “CVS boosted chocolate sales this year” which implies that its location next to female hygienic products would help it sell more. The suggestion that women on their period are more likely to buy chocolate is widely spread idea. This is just a small example of how chocolate can really represent institutions within our society like gender (like power through its elitism).

Just from looking at chocolate placement in a CVS in Harvard Square, you can begin to understand its intrinsic nature. Chocolate is a symbol of delicacy, power, femininity, and sinfulness (both in relation to physical health and sexually). All you need to do is look.

Works Cited

Norton, Marcy. 2006. “Tasting Empire: Chocolate and the European Internalization of Mesoamerican Aesthetics.” The American Historical Review 111 (3): 660-691

Mintz, Sidney W. “Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History” (New York, 1985), 140, 139, 153, 166–167.

Martin, Carla D. “Sugar and Cacao.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, Feb. 15, 2017.

Taubes, Gary, and Cristin Kearns Couzens. “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies.” Mother Jones. Nov/Dec. 2012. Web. 04 May 2017. <http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2012/10/sugar-industry-lies-campaign&gt;.

Chocolate Gold

Advertising in the chocolate industry is laden with sexist, ageist, racist, and classist imagery and slogans. I’d venture to say that the majority of chocolate advertisements tell me that chocolate is a seductive and decadent treat that makes me lose myself and is to be consumed in an overtly sexual way. Ferrero, which is one of the world’s Big Five chocolate companies (Allen), has long conveyed to consumers through advertising that its chocolate is a regal treat, that enjoying their product allows you bask in the spoils of the rich for a low entry price. Ferrero’s marketing tactic blatantly employs classism in order to maintain their position in the Big Five, capitalizing on chocolate’s actual chronicle of greed, colonialism, and slavery—and, yet, we buy it.

In 2011, Ferrero unleashed their “Golden Christmas” campaign. This campaign basically added images of Christmas trees and holiday lights to their usual setting of a swanky Ambassadors’ reception complete with tuxedos, butlers, and pretty ladies opening their mouths wide for a tasty “European specialty,” all under the guise of sharing in something wonderful. Let’s take a moment to appreciate this advertisement:

A sleek sedan drives through iron gates as opera music plays. (Prepare to be whisked away to a mansion you’ll never live in!) The vehicle that presumably most people can’t afford passes several rows of carefully sculpted landscaping adorned with white Christmas lights on a lawn that most people will never personally enjoy. The driver is a man in a tuxedo and the passenger and narrator is a thin woman dressed in a gown. They pull up to an outdoor party where others are dressed similarly. Amidst the fine guests, we receive a peek at a Christmas tree. (Just a peek—because, remember, our focus is the chocolate, not the holiday intended to celebrate love and the birth of the Christian God’s son.) As the camera pans the setting, a servant descends a flight of steps lined with a red carpet. He is holding a silver platter with neatly stacked Ferrero Rocher chocolates, enclosed in their trademark gold-colored wrappers. Before the woman places a chocolate in her mouth, she closes her eyes and says, “Mmmmm.” She becomes so lost in this delectable nugget that a male narrator has to jump in. He lets us in on the secret: that chocolate is “premium,” in fact, it is actually “the finest chocolate” and “the most sophisticated of the confections arts.”

Have you been carried off to a party where you wear your finest threads, roll up in your waxed whip, and are served by a guy in white gloves while a suave Ambassador winks at you? Does the cooing of a pretty lady turn you on? Are you a woman yearning to identify yourself with this image of refinery? (Robertson) Do you feel like getting your hands on the bargain store chocolate wrapped in gold so that you can share in the delights of the rich and powerful? While the ridiculousness of Ferrero’s Ambassadors’ reception theme came under fire in Europe (Crowther), the fact remains that this plays on the real narrative of chocolate and sugar, and consumers consumed it. We could not enjoy the cheap thrill of a sweet bite without first enduring the insatiable European hunger for market dominance and forced labor. The reality of cacao and sugar plantations as drivers of the slave trade and the reason for which chocolate remains an inexpensive commodity for consumers is well documented, particularly in this course (Coe; Martin; Mintz). Yet, Ferrero, “the fourth largest confectionery company in the world,” continues to create theses ads that prey on class divides and the idea that we should want the life they’re selling. We should crave something built on the backs of African and Indigenous people, brutalized into submission. We should crave the wealth that this industry created for white men. We should crave the commodity of a ‘finely’ dressed woman. We should want this chocolate gold and the lifestyle rooted in classism, sexism, and racism that it comes with.

But can we separate the history from the commodity? My observations tell me that that is exactly what many people do. How else are we so comfortable eating and celebrating something that is so tainted by the blood of others? I mean, forced labor isn’t still a thing. Or is it? The Big Five have come under fire over the last 20 years for child labor violations, worker abuses, and—the most egregious of matters—slavery—the bulk of which occurs in West Africa, a region that produces around 70% of the world’s chocolate. By 2000, the public’s awareness around present-day slavery had given way to documentaries, news articles, and a push by U.S. Senator Tom Harkin and U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel to enact the Harkin-Engel Protocol. The Protocol hoped to “eliminate the worst forms of child labor and forced labor from all cocoa farms worldwide by July 2005.” (Leissle) It hasn’t been entirely effective, but the Protocol was met with an impetus from consumers and companies that do care to do chocolate better. Examples of such include those listed on the Food Empowerment Project website and Divine Chocolate.

So, I offer my own advertisement for Ferrero to consider using this holiday season.

My Ferrero Rocher Golden Christmas alternative.
My Ferrero Rocher Golden Christmas alternative.

Pictured in this ad are a family and their neighbors enjoying the chocolates that they’ve helped to produce. We can make this assumption because of the cacao trees in the background. In the spirit of Christmas and magical moments, the cacao trees are adorned with stars and Christmas balls, setting the festive mood. The magic is in the people. They are dressed casually, their body language is comfortable, and they appear to be healthy and happy. They manage to enjoy their holiday party without the pretentious frivolities of the Ambassadors’ reception because what matters most is their time spent together. The imagery boasts an everyday, working family’s reality while the words—the same as in the original Ferrero Rocher advertisement—help to redefine for the audience what premium quality, refinement, and sophistication can mean. This new face of Ferrero Rocher’s quality doesn’t include over-sexualized women, European specialties in their mouths, or servants. It simply celebrates people, hard work, good taste, and community.

Ferrero Rocher and other Big Five chocolates might never be portrayed in this light, but one can hope. We can hope that in time, chocolate heirs and advertisers will begin to recognize their own implication in the perpetuation of classism, slavery, and unjust labor practices. We can hope that they will actually work to eradicate such abuses. Then, perhaps, after they’ve strived to create a more responsible and accountable industry, they will deploy advertising campaigns that don’t rely on trite clichés. In the meantime, it is up to everyday consumers to recognize how terribly large companies and advertisers treat us, and to call them out frequently.

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers. New York: American Management Association, 2010.

Coe, Sophie D. and Coe, Michael D. The True History of Chocolate. Revised [and Updated Ed.]. ed. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2007. Print.

Crowther, John. “You’re spoiling us, Mr. Ambassador! That laughable Ferrero Rocher advert wasn’t a joke at all – it was the Italians’ idea of style and class.” DailyMail.co.uk. Updated 23 April 2011. Online. Accessed 7 April 2015 at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1379948/Youre-spoiling-Mr-Ambassador-And-making-chocolates-laughing-stock-That-Ferrero-Rocher-advert-wasnt-joke–Italians-idea-style-class.html.

Leissle, Kristy. “Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate.” Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, Vol. 13, No. 3. (Fall 2013), pp. 22-31.

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24 (2) (2012): 121-139.

Martin, Carla D. “Slavery, Abolition, and Forced Labor.” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 3 March. 2015. Class Lecture.

Martin, Carla D. “Lecture 9: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements’” Chocolate, Culture, and the Politics of Food. Harvard Extension School: Cambridge, MA. 1 April. 2015. Class Lecture.

Mintz, Sidney Wilfred. Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. New York: Penguin, 1986. Print.

“Mission.” Ferrero USA, Inc., n.d. http://www.ferrerousa.com/ferrero-group/mission/ferrero-values.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.

“Share your Golden Christmas.” YouTube video. Posted 28 November 2011. Accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JCF5Z-m1c0I.

“The Ambassador’s Party.” YouTube video. Posted 27 May 2007. Accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4P-nZZkQqTc.

The Charcoal Donut: Race and Gender in Asian Chocolate Advertising

The Dunkin' Donuts advert in full. Photograph: Dunkin' Donuts/Facebook
The Dunkin’ Donuts advert in full. Photograph: Dunkin’ Donuts/Facebook

 “We’re not allowed to use black to promote our donuts? I don’t get it. What’s the big fuss? What if the product was white and I painted someone white? Would that be racist?”

-Nadim Salhani, CEO of Dunkin’ Donuts Thailand

The original advertisement I chose for this assignment was a 2013 Thai poster promoting the “Charcoal Donut” by Dunkin Donuts, a chocolate cake covered in a chocolate glaze. The Charcoal Donut campaign features a young woman painted in black-face with a stereotypical 1950s beehive hairstyle and emphasized pink lips. The model, baring naked shoulders, is holding the product. In Thai, the slogan reads “Break every rule of deliciousness” (Gabott).

The advertisement is particularly disturbing because of the representation of race to promote the product. The black-face model is used as a metaphor for the chocolate, colored the same dark shade in the poster. Additionally, the name of the product, the “Charcoal Donut” suggests association with dirtiness and soot. Nadim Salhani, the CEO of Dunkin Donuts Thailand, defended the campaign, questioning “We’re not allowed to use black to promote our doughnuts? I don’t get it. What’s the big fuss?” (Babbatt). The “big fuss” is the dark past of chocolate,“deeply interwoven with the history of imperial exploitation of non-white peoples” (Robertson 172). Controversy over juxtaposing chocolate and colored people in advertising is not about color as a metaphor; the racial and historical implications are problematic, especially given the geographic placement of the ad. While such a campaign would cause “howls of outrage” in the US”,  questionable racial attitudes are widespread in Thailand, where 28% of the population would disapprove of having neighbors of a different race (Purnell). Discussing chocolate advertising in the European market, Emma Robertson writes “European racialized imaginings of cocoa are not pure coincidence; they are evidence of a shared history of European colonial exploitation…and of the complicated intertextuality of white western racist popular culture” (Robertson 180). A similar attitude holds true in Thai popular culture, where products like Unilever’s Citra Pearly White UV body lotion and Black Man household mops are commonplace (Purnell). Most concerning, such a campaign would incite public backlash and boycott of the responsible company in the US. In Thailand, sales for the Charcoal donut increased about 50% within two weeks of the campaign being launched (Gecker).

An event advertising the Charcoal Donut from Dunkin Donuts in Thailand
An event advertising the Charcoal Donut from Dunkin Donuts in Thailand

Gender and sexuality are also themes in this advertisement. The young woman in the poster is being sexualized with dramatic hair, pink, exaggerated lips curled in a closed seductive smile and completely bare shoulders. This portrayal combined with the racial representation contributes to an imperial fetishization of women of color. The slogan, “Break every rule of deliciousness” accompanies this theme. This shows a common trend amongst women in chocolate advertising, “long-standing associations with female sexuality” (Robertson 30). Originally portrayed as mothers and housewives, women in chocolate advertising have evolved to young, attractive, scantily-dressed female characters “obsessed by the product” who “project their hetreosexual yearnings and fantasies on chocolate consumption” (Robertson 35). Even if the advertisement features female characters, the “commentary to the advert takes on masculine tone of rationality and paternalism”, similar to the Dunkin Donuts ad (Robertson 33).

For my advertisement, I made a “white” version of the same controversial donut ad, substituting the black-face model with a white woman and the chocolate donut with a vanilla donut. I renamed the product the “Ivory Donut”. This advertisement posed new concerns regarding race and gender in advertising.

Advertisement for the "Ivory Donut"
Advertisement for the “Ivory Donut”

The faux “Ivory Donut” had racist undertones even though the ad did not include a colored model or reference colored people. The light skin of the model would be used as a metaphor for a product portrayed as light, delectable, fun and sweet. The new name, the “Ivory Donut” would also indicate “whiteness” but also luxury, purity and wealth. Additionally, I believe that this advertisement would be problematic in the Thai market because it would be promoting Western constraints of beauty in a society that struggles with race relations and glorifies fair-skinned people (Gecker). The new poster also incorporates female sexuality and the feminine obsession with desserts; this donut also has a bite taken out of it, as if the woman could not control her urge and ate it.

I believe these ads represent a new trend in the role of race and gender in chocolate and dessert advertising, especially in the Asian market. Perhaps the blatant racism of the ad would not be tolerated in the United States but the inappropriate representation of race and gender seems international. However, I believe more ads like this will appear in Thailand other Asian countries given their society’s glorification of Western beauty, widespread racial discrimination and fairly new and experimental chocolate market.

Race is often incorporated into Thai advertising
Race is often incorporated into Thai advertising
Works Cited
Gabbatt, Adam. “Dunkin’ Donuts Apologises for ‘bizarre and Racist’ Thai Advert.” The Guardian. N.p., 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
GECKER, By JOCELYN. “Dunkin’ Donuts Apologizes for Blackface Advert.” AP Online. Associated Press, 30 Aug. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Purnell, Newley. “Images Spark Racism Debate in Thailand.” The New Yorker 31 Oct. 2013: n. pag. Print.
Robertson, Emma. “Chocolate Consumption.” Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. 1-31. Print.
Robertson, Emma, Michael Pickering, Anandi Ramamurthy, and Wulf D. Hund. Bittersweet Temptations: Race and the Advertising of CocoaColonial Advertising & Commodity Racism. N.p.: n.p., 2013. 171-96. Print.

Betty White, football, and the potential for positive portrayals of the elderly in chocolate advertising

Advertisements reflect implicit, sometimes unrealized internal biases that we have inherited from society, and simultaneously reinforce that bias. Robertson writes that advertisements “position us in relation to that product as gendered, classed and raced beings” (19). Beyond racial and gender stereotypes, the ad I analyze in this blog post also utilizes problematic stereotypes about age to sell its product. The advertisement portrays an elderly subject in a way that ridicules, disempowers, and reinforces disrespectful stereotypes about the elderly as weak, and therefore undesirable. However, I will argue that advertising does not need to further entrench these harmful messages in order to sell their products; instead, advertisements can and should market their products while being a positive, active force in reshaping harmful societal stereotypes; in this case, by showcasing the elderly as strong, capable, and deserving of respect.

Problematic portrayals of marginalized populations in chocolate advertising are unfortunately commonplace. Racism is prevalent throughout chocolate advertising, such as in Rowntree’s Honeybunch, “a distinct racial caricature” with exaggerated features and stereotypical African-American vernacular (Robertson 41). Gender stereotypes are also prevalent: women are often fetishized as mothers, such as in the following advertisement, which appeals to a mother’s self-doubt and anxiety about making the right food choices for her family, by playing itself up as the choice of the savvy housewife and devoted mother. And when it comes to age in chocolate advertising, typically it is children, not the elderly, who are the targeted age demographic. Targeting children is a commonly exploited way of marketing these products; companies spend about $17 billion annually marketing to children (Martin, lecture slides), and psychosocial manipulation is often used, such as when “grocery stores place colorful boxes of sugary cereals on lower shelves where children can easily see and reach them” (Quelch). Thinking critically about chocolate advertisements can reveal our cultural blindspots to inequality and prejudice.

When the opposite end of the age spectrum is used in chocolate advertising, such as in this Snickers commercial, it is using to use age as a ridiculing punchline:

The underlying basis of this Snickers advertisement is that when the main character gets hungry, he turns into an Other, or in this case, Betty White. This Other personality is obnoxious, unwanted, and incompetent, and can only be dismissed (to the great relief of everyone) when the person eats a Snickers bar. There are many problems with the way Betty White, as an elderly woman, is portrayed and stereotyped in this commercial. She is shown struggling to keep up in a game of football with several young men. When they break for a huddle, the other men rail on her for playing poorly. She lashes back with attitude and provokes the beginnings of a fight. Ultimately, this commercial feeds into the perception of the elderly as weak, irritable, incompetent, and undesirable. She is weak in that she is physically frail and unable to play; she is irritable in that she lashes out when criticized (like the stereotype of the cantankerous old neighbor); she is incompetent in that she fails to hold up her role in the team and disappoints her teammates; and ultimately, she is undesirable, because the point of the commercial is that eating a Snickers gets rid of her.

Using an elderly woman as a marketing tool punchline for Snickers is ironic, as Robertson describes how many elderly women, such as in Bamikemo, are respected and powerful farmers and supervisors of cacao farms, “occupying positions of increased status within cocoa farming and the community as a whole” (105). The fact that these women, at the ages of 50, 60, or even 70 years of age are still spraying, harvesting, and managing these cocoa farms, while simultaneously continuing to engage in childcare and other domestic responsibilities, is remarkable. This makes Snickers’ ad particularly uncomfortable and disempowering, because they have taken a product that strong, capable, and admirable older women have had a hand in creating, and used ridiculing stereotypes of age and gender in order to market it.

Instead, we felt that Snickers could have created a commercial that admired and respected the elderly, while also selling its product:


This storyboard for a commercial sets up the scene in a similar way: the Betty White character is playing football with the young men, but this time, she is out-playing them, despite her age. The group then gets into a huddle, but instead of insulting her, they inquire admiringly about her impressive performance. In response, the elderly woman tells them she is so quick, fit, and strong because, in her words, “I’ve been eating Snickers all my life!” This simultaneously positively promotes the product (it is not only satisfying, it is fortifying as well) and portrays the elderly character as an aspirational figure and someone to be respected. Instead of the punchline, she is now the hero; instead of a nuisance to be dismissed, she is a real person whose performance makes her the star. Instead of perpetuating ideas of the elderly as weak, unwanted, and irritating, this new commercial actually actively works to change cultural perceptions and discourse about the elderly.

Advertisements reflect implicit biases we hold, whether about race, gender, or age. But advertisements are not strictly passive in reflecting our biases for us; they constructively shape our cultural understandings and social ideas. Therefore, advertisers like Snickers have a responsibility to catalyze positive change in how we think about marginalized populations in our society like the elderly, by portraying them as the nuanced, considered, strong and venerable figures they are.

Works Cited

Martin, Carla. “Lecture 17: Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Lecture. April 1, 2015.

Quelch, John. All Business is Local: Why Place Matters More Than Ever in a Global, Virtual World. New York: Penguin, 2012.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, women and empire. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Deliciously dark. Mostly offensive.

Imagine flipping through a magazine and you come across this ad.


Source: https://www.behance.net/gallery/681923/Cadbury-Bournville-(2009

What sticks out to you? Is it the weird-alien- head? Or maybe it’s the weird mini people living in the alien head? Maybe you are asking yourself, “Why is she wearing pigtails?” (Because let’s be honest, who wears pigtails WITH pink ribbons nowadays?)

Yet, if we take time to truly look at the ad, we can begin to see there are much deeper meanings and subtle insinuations being presented. More importantly, there emerges a narrative that is deeply embedded in the history of chocolate. Historically, chocolate has been tied to some very problematic advertisements surrounding race and women.Cadbury Bournville Chocolate  unfortunately falls into this category with their “Deliciously Dark” campaign – consider is big WOMP, WOMP. Although the campaign aims to promote feelings of releasing the darker side of consumers (insert evil villain laugh here), there are several aspects of this advertisement that are troublesome and simply objectify woman. Aside from her Britney Spears, “hit me baby one more time” ensemble, the combination of big doe like eyes, the child-like pig tails, and glasses makes this working woman immediately reduced to a young innocent girl. This deliberate choice of portraying her as a young and naïve girl writes her into a submissive role. Yet, she is not too submissive to be seductive, which is why there is a glossed and colored lip on the girl. Notice how the chocolate is placed next to her full, shiny lips further sexualizing the subject of the add. Interestingly enough, this scenario is placed in what looks like a cubicle, which leads me to believe that she is some kind of assistant. There becomes a dynamic for which she is stereotyped as a young, dumb, blonde – and perpetuates this idea that the only thing a woman can do in an office setting is administrative duties. What’s more bothersome is the portrayal of her “dark” fantasy version of her in the clear head which, to me, has some underlying message of girls are “airheads” and in positions of inferiority. But once she becomes the boss in her head, she is now wearing more revealing clothing, and again is sexualized even further. Sadly, there are more of these “dark” ads.

chocolatead (1) copy


Source: my drawing

In response to the “delicious” but highly sexist ads, I drew a “Passions” ad. Here the tagline reads, “WE CAN DO IT…AND HAVE IT ALL!” The image was inspired by the “Rosie the Riveter”, or J. Miller’s famous “We Can Do It!” poster from the WWII era, which promoted strong female roles.


Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/We_Can_Do_It!

As you can see in the drawing, the woman is standing in her high rise, corner office indicating she is highly successful in her firm. I strategically placed things throughout the office to portray a strong, successful, family oriented, and intelligent woman. For instance, you can see she has a Harvard degree on her wall; she has a family in a frame on her desk; her nametag on the desk reads “CEO” (subtle hints that she earned her position); and she also recycles! I attempted to make her in a more realistic body type instead of the continuous slender models who usually appear in ads. I also tried to portray a more ethnically diverse woman, which has curly wild hair and most likely a minority in most situations – promoting the idea of women in positions of power. Additionally, I created this strong woman to combat the earlier woman’s ad, because you can be smart, successful beautiful and hard working without having to compromise anything – especially your chocolate!


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

Women and Chocolate: The False Representation In Chocolate Ads

In chocolate advertisements, women are often portrayed as animals who are easily sexually aroused by chocolate. One of the typical stories in the advertisement would show a woman having the first bite and, in a flash, they shut their eyes in sexual pleasure. Another type of situation in a chocolate ad is when women would fight over one piece of chocolate like it is a sex-object. Most ads for chocolate from the United States (20th century to the present day) are often sexist and degrading like the first piece of evidence in this post.

This is a commercial which aired in the United States on various TV channels in 2008 for men’s cologne called “AXE: Dark Temptation.”

The ad description explains the outcome after using the product in the video description: “he becomes as irresistible as chocolate…” So there is a young man (perhaps a teenager?) applying the product to become more appealing. All of the sudden he becomes a chocolate man. He breaks off his body parts to share with girls or they just take a bite out of him (even two of them lick him in a movie theater in sheer excitement!). By the end of the video, several women rush out of the gym and against the glass window hoping to get this chocolate man. Women driving by tear his arm off like savages. The ad itself is shocking, highly offensive and sexist. It conveys negative concepts such as cannibalism and dependence on sexual activity. The ad labels women as aggressive and desperate supermodels looking for a ‘mate’ (Robertson, 2010). Assuming that women love chocolate and use it for sexual activity, it is as if the company used that concept to their advantage (Robertson, 2010). The next advertisement which is an original one I have constructed challenges the offensive label.

A sad chocolate man ponders "What could be better than me?" As he looks at a happy couple.
A sad chocolate man ponders “What could be better than me?” As he looks at the happy couple.

The woman in the ad is shown having a real relationship with a human being underneath a cacao pod (the woman pays no attention to the cacao pod). However, on the other side, the chocolate man sits there, confused and upset with unconsumed Godiva truffle organs in his body. He thinks ‘what could be better than me?’ The story ends with text explaining what is better than consuming a chocolate man for sexual pleasure, a relationship with a man which does not always involve sex. The original ad shown above is for chocolate but the woman’s personality is not stereotyped. This advert deserves its praise due to the fact that it demonstrates women are not easily tricked into buying chocolate for sexual pleasure. The ad demonstrates how women are not sexually aroused by this simple ‘enjoyable treat.’ Ads like this one should become popular in the industry, so the goal for gender equality is present. Sadly, not many like that exist in the United States.

Of course sexism in ads not only occurs in the United States, but in other countries as well.

This commercial comes from the Schmitten Chocolate company in India. It was uploaded only a year ago on the company’s official YouTube channel recently (in 2014). In commercials like this one, they show beautiful women but their personality is minimized to being obsessive over a simple, delicious treat. The models also can be negatively labeled as having remarkable beauty, little intelligence and being a part of the upper-class elite (Leissle, 2012). Consumers must take action and defend against the stereotypes women are given in advertisements. It is impertinent and appalling to see women’s personalities lowered to being sexually desperate for chocolate.

To conclude, the modern consumer needs to be aware of the false, stereotypical representations of women in chocolate advertisements and push back against these typecasts. This has become an enormous problem in today’s society and it demonstrates the gender inequality between the opposite sexes.

Works Cited



Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2010. Print.

Kristy Leissle (2012): Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements, Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24:2, 121-139

Sources for Original Advertisement





Selling Chocolate

Sex sells, or at the very least, it dominates many advertisements (print, digital, TV, etc.) nowadays.  Marketing products or goods with sex is somewhat of a modern approach to advertising, but chocolate is one of the few products that were highly sought after by women for its reported aphrodisiac properties and other benefits.  There are some extreme accounts that dates back as early as the 1700’s where chocolate was being used as love potions and spells in Guatemala.  This very long association with chocolate, sex, and women along with the advent of television, media devices, and large print distribution centers perpetuates a defective thought that chocolate, women, and sex are synonymous.

Figure 1: Image of Axe: Chocolate. There was a series of print ads and television commercials transforming a standard man into chocolate. Women proceed to congregate around this man because he is simply “as irresistible as chocolate.” Illustrates the perceived notion that chocolate, sex, and women are synonymous.  Original Source: http://www.wpp.com/wppedcream/2009/images/original/wppedcream_2009_Page_173_Image_0001.jpg

One of the earliest and extreme historical accounts of the relationship between chocolate and sex was in Guatemala in 1705.  There was a description of “women who acted ‘disorderly’ […] often included descriptions of women’s illicit sexual activity and practices of sexual witch-craft, where women took advantage of their roles in food preparation to assert power over the men in their lives.  Because of its dark color and grainy texture, chocolate provided ideal cover for items associated with sexual witchcraft” (Few, 678).  This illustrates that there is historical context of chocolate being associated with sex.  Unfortunately, over the years the sexualization of chocolate has become more and more overt.  In Catherine Coleman’s “Dessert: Heavenly or Sinful?  Consumption, Carnality, and Spirituality in Food Advertising,” Coleman explores the aspects of visual representation in regards to food and sexuality.  She mentions that there are many dimensions of the relationship of food and sex which include women being “portrayed with insatiable appetites; these images are used solely metaphorically to imply sexual appetite” or even more extreme, food “being an erotic experience in and of itself” (Coleman, 176).  There are many levels to sexual imagery and some are more explicit than others.

One example of an ad that alludes to sexual imagery is from Dove chocolate.

Figure 2: Image of a still print Dove Chocolate advertisement.  Original Source: http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2010/11/dove.jpg

The ad aims to market a Dove Chocolate bar that comes in three individual packets being able to “last longer than you can resist.  Unwrap.  Indulge. Repeat…  Savor them slowly.  My moment. My Dove.”  There are three images they use to deliver this message – a woman, brown silk, and chocolate.  However, what dominates the majority of the ad is the woman and the italicized “Unwrap.  Indulge.  Repeat.”  The brown silk that surrounds the woman represents the chocolate’s silkiness and reaffirms the overall Dove brand.  Objectively, the advertisement is trying to illustrate that Dove chocolate is smooth, pleasurable, and now can be enjoyed more than once.  The visual images along with the stylized words, “last longer than you can resist”, primes the reader to suggestive thoughts.  The woman is objectified because she becomes a sexual object for chocolate.  While Dove’s general marketing image is positive and they are well known for their work in body image acceptance and beauty, this ad illustrates that Dove has used objectifying ads to perpetuate the use of harmful stereotypes.

Below is an ad that I have created in response to Dove’s original chocolate ad.

Figure 3: Ad that I have created which attempts to retain the original message of the Dove ad, but is represented with different visuals.  Original Source: Me

Given that the overall message of the ad is about the chocolate being silky smooth, pleasurable, and can last longer, I changed the primary image to a dove for immediate brand recognition. The dove is holding a silk ribbon to represent the chocolate’s silky smooth texture, and the words have been rearranged to fit where I felt was appropriate.  I feel that this is a different visual representation that delivers the same message as the original.  However, the argument can be made that I used an animal instead of a woman and therefore made the advertisement asexual or makes it less personable to other consumers.  However, I just wished to illustrate that delivering the same information and generating brand recognition is still possible without relying on the sexual objectification of women.  Furthermore, in the original Dove ad, the woman is primarily used as decoration and illustrates no functional purpose to advertising the chocolate.  Therefore, while my change is purely aesthetic and the objective message is the same, the sexual narrative has been lessened.

This is not to say that I do not believe women should be removed from chocolate advertisements in general because their mere presence implies sexualization (this is a dangerous overgeneralization), but chocolate has a history of being sexualized.   It stems from a historical belief of chocolate’s aphrodisiac effects, which presently, is only a fabrication to use women as sexual objects to sell a product.  Women can and should still be used in chocolate advertisements but their portrayal should not establish a culture of harmful stereotypes.

Works Cited

Coleman, C. (2008). Dessert: Heavenly or sinful? Consumption, carnality and spirituality in food advertising. European Advances in Consumer Research8, 175.

Few, M. (2005). Chocolate, Sex, and Disorderly Women in Late-Seventeenth- and Early-Eighteenth-Century Guatemala. Ethnohistory,52(4), 673-687.

Rebranding Nesquik to Attract Career-minded Women outside Traditional Stereotypes

Gender and role specific themes have long been used in advertising. Chocolate became available to the working class in the 1800s and from that point on, advertisements told mothers and housewives that cocoa is a healthy, respectable, family product (Robertson 2010:20-21). Advertisements targeting women outside this traditional stereotype developed as women became increasingly liberated from domestic roles. A close reading of a current Nestlé’s ad targeting women in child nurturing roles followed by a close reading of a response ad that disconnects women from traditional stereotypes and rebrands Nesquik as a product enjoyed by college-professional women shows both ads to use advertising techniques effectively and to be part of larger socio-historical trends.

The current Nestlé’s ad shows a woman preparing Nesquik for herself and two children. Shown here:


Visual aspects of this ad place the product front and center with its lid off. A milk carton is next to the product and the woman stirring a glass indicates ease of preparation. The people are dressed in casual, modern-day clothing, the kitchen is clean, and a bowl of fruit and kitchen supplies are neatly organized in the background indicating a caring, hygienic environment.

This well-kept kitchen environment contributes to ethos, logos, and pathos used as advertising techniques. Ethos or moral trustworthiness is used by presenting a mother who cares enough to keep her kitchen clean and who trusts Nesquik enough to give it to her children. Leaving the lid off the container revealing its content also encourages trust. The image indicates that ordinary families with good values use this product. Logos or logic is used by displaying a carton of milk indicating that Nesquik mixed with milk is nutritious. This is in keeping with the trend of advertising cocoa as good for growing children’s bone and muscle (Robertson 2010:21). This type of ad appeals to the stereotype of women as guardians of family health and welfare and targets women who see themselves as buying only safe and healthy products for their children (Robertson 2010:53-54). Pathos or emotion is used to persuade as well. Happiness is felt in the characters’ physical closeness, eagerness, and the little girl’s grin. Overall, the story being told is that morally-responsible, logical mothers buy Nestlé’s Nesquik and share close, happy, and healthy moments with their children.

There is a long history of ads using the nurturing mother narrative, reflecting socio-historical trend. For instance, Rowntree ran ads in the 1930s called the Special Mother Campaign (Robertson 2010:21). Exampled here:


These ads highlighted chocolate as a nutritious food that mothers could feel good about giving to their children and that would supply energy to get work done throughout the day (Robertson 2010:21). The current Nestlé’s Nesquik ad is part of this longstanding socio-historical trend.

My team created a response ad to the current Nestlé’s ad by disconnecting Nesquik from motherhood and rebranding it as a product enjoyed by college-professional women. Shown here:

chocolate advertisement

Gaffney, Leah and Cornelius, Rachael.
Gaffney, Leah and Cornelius, Rachael.

The image is of two modern-day, professionally dressed women seated in an office-study area looking over papers. Visual aspects draw attention to Nesquik by placing it in center field, balancing its level of view with a coffee cup, and offering an inadvertent finger point toward it. The easy carry bottle indicates convenience. One newspaper on the table indicates a college environment and another reminds that women’s roles have changed. The industrial fire alarm indicates an office setting rather than a home.

This professional environment contributes to ethos, logos, and pathos advertising techniques used in this advertisement. The theme of women driven toward professional goals suggests responsibility, ethics, or ethos. Their intellectual focus lends trust that these women have developed a successful work routine that includes Nesquik. Using logos, Nesquik is equated with energy by placing it at an equal visual level with coffee. Consuming energy drinks to help stay alert has long been accepted as safe and logical. Pathos is also used to persuade. The vision of women working together toward a common intellectual goal creates a happy sense of professional sisterhood. Overall, the advertisement tells the story that women’s roles have changed as have the roles of products and that collaborative, intellectual experiences are augmented by drinking energy drinks such as Nesquik.

This ad targets women outside traditional roles as part of a more recent socio-historical trend. For instance, chocolate was advertised in the 1930s as boosting productivity in working roles for women such as typing (Robertson 2010:24). Ads marketing chocolate as an energy source gained momentum in the 1940s when war efforts increased the number of women working outside the home (Robertson 2010:54). Apart from the food-energy theme, the response ad emphasizes intellectual pursuit consistent with the women’s independence trend. Starting in the 1950s, ads reflected women’s social, political, and sexual liberation (Robertson 2010:54). There is an element of professional style, confidence, and intelligence offered by the women in the response ad that is similar in message to that of the new Divine Chocolate ads depicting stylish, intelligent, African female business owners disconnected from stereotyped nurturing roles (Leissle 2002:121). Exampled here:


Although the Divine ad is different from the response ad in some ways, such as culture, setting, and dress, both ads deliver the message that successful career-oriented women enjoy chocolate and both are part of the more recent socio-historical trend of women operating outside traditional stereotypes.

Both the current Nestlé’s ad targeting women in nurturing roles and the response ad targeting women in college-professional roles use persuasive techniques effectively to reach consumers and reflect ongoing trends. Running ads such as these concurrently may strengthen Nesquik’s appeal even more for women who are both mothers and career professionals. For instance, mothers who make Nesquik at home with their children may also be persuaded to take it to work in easy to use containers. Overall, ads such as these that capture the interest of certain groups and reflect socio-historical trends successfully sell chocolate.

References Cited

Divine Chocolate. (2013). Two dimensional image. Impressivemagazinee.com. Web. 5, April 2015. https://www.google.com/search?q=divine+chocolate+with+social+flavour&biw=1288&bih=768&site=webhp&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=BoglVbXpN8X7sAXVooGgDw&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg#imgrc=IexN32w1_W78aM%253A%3B6H4NGaE06p6vzM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fimpressivemagazine.com%252Fwp-content%252Fuploads%252F2013%252F07%252Fdivine-ad.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fimpressivemagazine.com%252F2013%252F07%252F24%252Fdivine-chocolate-with-social-flavour%252F%3B600%3B775

Gaffney, Leah and Rachael Cornelius. “Chocolate Advertisement.” 2015. JPEG file.

Leissle, Kristy. (2012). Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements. Journal of African Cultural Studies, 24 (2), pp. 121-139.

Nesquik commercial with Bret Loehr. (2010). Two dimensional image from video. Youtube.com. Web. 5, April 2015. https://www.google.com/search?q=nestle+nesquik+advertisement&biw=1288&bih=768&site=webhp&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=DX4lVcDmBIeXsAXR1oGoBQ&ved=0CCoQsAQ&dpr=1#imgrc=IqVG6Vi0s_COCM%253A%3Bz01l0OoAMr5zIM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fi.ytimg.com%252Fvi%252FWEHdT2Ycto0%252Fhqdefault.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fwww.youtube.com%252Fwatch%253Fv%253DWEHdT2Ycto0%3B480%3B360

Robertson, Emma. (2010). Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. New York: Manchester University Press. pp 1-131.

Rowntree’s-Cocoa. (1930s). Two dimensional image. Advertisementsindia.com. Web. 5, April 2015. http://www.advertisementsindia.com/2011/05/rowntrees-cocoa/

Snickers, Football, and Betty White: Battling Ageist Attitudes One Touchdown at a Time


In this Snickers commercial, a group of young men are playing football, when one of them tackles an elderly woman, played by Betty White. As White gets up, her blue pastel pajamas muddied, she begins to yell at the football players. A young woman then runs from the sidelines and gives White a Snickers bar, transforming her into a youthful, sporty, young man. “You’re not you when you’re hungry,” the narrator proclaims. The commercial closes with an elderly man being tackled.

This Snickers advertisement portrays a rare demographic in television: the elderly. While we may examine chocolate advertisements in terms of being sexist or racist, we never think of them as being “ageist.” This is partly because of the elderly’s portrayal as “invisible.” While Americans over 60 make up nearly 17% of the population, they only accounted for 5.4% of all network prime-time characters and 4% of the casts for daytime serials (Gerbner and Gross, 1993). The elderly are rarely portrayed in advertisements, and when they are, they are shown in a negative light. This is due to the youth-oriented marketing culture. Companies focus on “cradle to grave marketing,” because youth are supposedly more likely to try new products. The elderly, however, are seen as “set in their ways.” Thus, the lack of positive portrayals (or any kind of portrayals, for that matter) of the elderly is due to the idea that marketing to them is useless.

This marketing mentality has led to many commercials full of subtle derision for the elderly. In a now infamous Wendy’s commercial, three “little old ladies” repeatedly ask “where’s the beef?” as they look at a burger. In another ad, a 101-year-old woman goes ballistic when she finds out that there is no Coca-Cola. This portrayal of the elderly as frail and irrational fits the Snickers advertisement perfectly.

This type of Snickers ad relies on a simple before and after device. Before, the main character is grumpy, fussy, and annoying. But, after eating a Snickers bar, that person returns to their “normal” state. Snickers’ use of an elderly woman in the before state implies that being elderly is something that one should avoid. What is particularly interesting about this advertisement is the fact that it stars Betty White, one of the few elderly actresses in Hollywood. Betty White’s exuberant personality, quirky humor, and strong career (at age 92) have challenged many ideas around what aging looks like. The fact that Betty White would participate in a commercial that ultimately stigmatizes her own demographic is somewhat disturbing. But then, it seems that these media stereotypes are not seen as stigmas, but as truths.

In 2013, Betty White broke the Guinness World Record for the longest television career of any female in history. Image courtesy of CNN.
In 2013, Betty White broke the Guinness World Record for the longest television career of any female in history. Image courtesy of CNN.

These “truthful” images links the elderly with neatly manicured nursing home lawns, crystalline pools, and non-threatening pastel suits—all with a side of prune juice. This portrayal of the elderly as impotent is what leads to the “second childhood” trope. This trope is based off of the “perceived abundance of leisure time” (PLACIM) in both youth and old age. Because neither children nor the elderly have to work, they are portrayed as having nothing to do except “to have fun.” However, on a darker note, children and the elderly are also portrayed as having no agency of their own, controlled by a generation of middle-aged adults. Senility also plays a role in this portrayal; unable to function like normal adults, the elderly revert to a more primitive, child-like existence.

In the Snickers commercial, White behaves very much like a child. She stops the game, complains about the other players, and, in short, is unable to “play nice” with the other kids. While companies should be troubled by the social effects of these tropes, they might be more effectively jolted into action by the financial repercussions of their marketing decisions. Many companies are ignoring the untapped 60+ market, because the elderly are seen as poor, dependent, and unwilling to change their buying habits. The adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” reflects the negative connotations surrounding the elderly.

While American portrayals of the elderly suffer from this “cult of youth” mentality (Diamond), other cultures around the world view aging as a positive thing. In the Middle East, families live in multi-generational homes, and the Arabic words for “old man” and “old woman” are also titles assigned to respected religious leaders. In Korea, reaching old age is seen as an accomplishment, and 60th birthdays are seen as rites of passage (Diamond). Our goal is to infuse our counter-advertisement with these positive ideals of aging while simultaneously showing how age and happiness are not mutually exclusive.

The counter-advertisement.

In our counter advertisement, Betty White is once again playing football, but this time she plays aggressively and scores a touchdown. Meanwhile, the younger players around her cannot keep up. At halftime, they ask her how she stays so strong. Dressed in an athletic tracksuit, Betty White answers “because I eat Snickers,” and proceeds to play again. Here, we portray Betty White as wise and experienced, someone who “knows the rules of the game.” White’s advice suggests an intergenerational exchange of knowledge, as well as a revival of elder wisdom. Furthermore, the fact that she is wearing a tracksuit instead of her pastel blue pajama set means that she is fit and in the prime of her life—in this case, fitter than the younger players whose youth does not necessarily guarantee athleticism. In this way, our commercial dispels the negative imagery surrounding old age while simultaneously opening up a new market demographic for Snickers.


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