Tag Archives: DOVE chocolate

Putting the Pieces Together: An Analysis of Chocolate Advertising

For an industry trying to rid itself of a reputation rooted in unfair labor practices and misrepresentation, DOVE’s advertisement (below) does the opposite. The contrast between black and white appears prominently, the presumed consumption of chocolate by a woman suggests its gendered attribution, and the portion-controlled offering insinuates that people do not have the ability to resist consuming chocolate, overemphasizing its alluring effects. In the following analysis, I consider these three shortcomings of this advertisement, and create an alternative option which takes them into account. Instead of marketing chocolate in a racialized, sexualized, and obsessive manner like DOVE, and many chocolate companies do today, the new advertisement I created focuses on giving chocolate as a gift between friends. By placing the pieces of chocolate in the shape of a heart, the intention is twofold: to value the source of its production and to demonstrate the way chocolate can bring people together.

2008 Dove advertisement (http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2010/11/dove.jpg)

DOVE Chocolate

DOVE Chocolate was founded by Leo Stefanos in the 1950s, who named “the new treat after his south side candy shop, a moniker chosen for its ‘peaceful’ quality” (Dove Chocolate 2009). See the DOVE Chocolate timeline here. In 1986, DOVE was acquired by M&M/Mars, which worked to improve the appeal of the chocolate, refining DOVE’s taste in the process. DOVE is known as a creamy indulgence, lying on a spectrum between the all-American Hershey and high-end Ghirardelli products. The advertisement above, released in 2008, demonstrates the line’s emphasis on how DOVE gives its consumer ‘me-time.’ The product is intended to be indulgent, using pure cocoa butter to create a smooth texture; DOVE centers its advertising approach on giving consumers their “me” moments in the midst of busy work and home lives.

Advertisement Critique

Upon viewing the DOVE advertisement initially, I noted the contrasting dark and light shades throughout the image. Chocolate and vanilla have long served as metaphors for race (Martin Lecture 9). Vanilla is linked to whiteness, associated with purity and cleanliness, while chocolate is linked to blackness, associated with impurity and sin, dirtiness, and sexuality. In this advertisement, the brown bed sheets signify darkness, closely resembling the color of the chocolate bar at the bottom of the image, and representing the enslaved West African cacao farmers. The woman’s expression portrays the pleasure experienced by a white consumer after enjoying a piece of DOVE Chocolate, removed from the labor of the farmers which provides the source of her contentment. Carol Off demonstrates her reaction to the forced labor that children in Cote d’Ivoire perform. “I feel the profound irony before me: the children who struggle to produce the small delights of life in the world I come from have never known such pleasure, and most likely, they never will” (2008).

The advertisement’s use of dark and light represents the distinction between the wealthy, white American customer who blissfully dreams of the piece of DOVE Chocolate she ate and the West African cacao farmers who toil away to produce it. The use of contrasting colors and shades extends its role in symbolizing darkness and whiteness; chocolate serves as a euphemism for people of color against the color of the white woman who has just enjoyed chocolate as an indulgent treat.

The woman’s presence in the DOVE Chocolate advertisement portrays females as irrational actors who use chocolate to indulge themselves. The woman seems lost in an alternative world as a result of consuming chocolate. In fact, “the consumption of chocolate in the west became feminized early in its history” (Robertson 2009). Here, and in many other chocolate ads, women are portrayed as having a sexualized relationship with chocolate (Robertson 2009). Thus its marketing includes romanticism and self-indulgence, continuing the stereotype of an excessive passion related to chocolate consumption.

Finally, this image’s advertisement of portion-controlled chocolate emphasizes the fact that consumers cannot refrain from eating too much chocolate, particularly in the West. Candy became demonized alongside the temperance movement in the late eighteenth century (Martin Lecture 7). Candy became increasingly regarded as the cause for childhood cavities and obesity among “overindulging adults.” Lawrence Allen explores how the Big Five chocolate companies battled over their presence in China, evaluating the difference between the perception of chocolate as a good in the East versus the West. “It is also the inside story of East meeting West through the introduction into China, a xenophobic land of austerity and deprivation, of an icon of the Western world’s decadence and self-indulgence: chocolate” (2010). The Western market’s regard for chocolate as a luxurious, indulgent good for oneself contrasted with the Eastern image of chocolate for gift-giving purposes. However, alongside this self-indulgent use is the idea that people do not have the self-control to limit their consumption, which is suggested through the woman’s expression and the wording at the bottom of the ad.

new chocolate ad

New Advertisement

Above, I created an alternative advertisement for DOVE Chocolate. It excludes the presence of people in order to remove stereotypes based on race, ethnicity, and gender. This omission also removes any sexualized themes from the advertisement. In this ad, chocolate is not portrayed as an object that cannot be resisted; instead of focusing on self-indulgence through having a “[me] moment,” DOVE Chocolate is used to do something for others. While DOVE encourages people to reconnect with themselves, my advertisement encourages them to reconnect with each other and with its sourcing. I included the Rainforest Alliance symbol within the ad (below) to educate consumers about DOVE’s agreement that 100% of its cocoa are from Rainforest Alliance certified farms. These “well managed cacao farms help reduce soil erosion, improve air quality, and provide a habitat for animals, often conserving remnants of once-plentiful tropical forests” (Dove Chocolate 2009).imgres


By portraying DOVE Chocolate as a way of fostering friendships and as a sustainable chocolate company, the new advertisement emphasizes its beneficial qualities rather than furthering stereotypes perpetuated throughout the modern industry. “Adverts have perpetuated western sexist and racist ideologies under a veneer of pleasurable consumption, and have divorced chocolate from the conditions of production” (Robertson 2009). Modern chocolate advertisements display a racialized and sexualized presentation of the product; the above ad suggests that humans cannot limit their indulgence and need outside assistance to resist the temptation. The ad that I proposed brings DOVE’s positive attributes to the forefront, deemphasizing the way it has been previously misrepresented by focusing on friendships instead of sexualized relationships, and on the company’s sustainable practices.

Works Cited

Allen, Lawrence L. “Chocolate Fortunes: The Battle for the Hearts, Minds, and Wallets of China’s Consumers.” Thunderbird International Business Review 52.1 (2010): 13-20.

Dove Chocolate. 2009. Cocoa Sustainability. Retrieved April 3, 2016, from https://www.dovechocolate.com/aboutDove/CocoaSustainability.

Off, Carol. Bitter Chocolate: Investigating the Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet. Vintage Canada, 2010.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.

Images and media

Dove Chocolate. 2009. The Dove Story. Retrieved April 2, 2016, from https://www.dovechocolate.com/aboutdove.

Dove pure silk bar 2008 advertising image. Web. 2 April 2016. http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/files/2010/11/dove.jpg

Rainforest Alliance certified logo. Web. 3 April 2016. http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/.



DOVE Chocolate: Issues of Gender and Class in Chocolate Advertising


In the world of chocolate advertising, there are many problematic images that promote certain gender, race, ethnicity, and/or class stereotypes. Some images have become the norm when it comes to marketing chocolate such as the sexualized woman. This is one of the most ubiquitous tropes and this post will explore how women are used to sell chocolate and the potential consequences that this image has for society (such as promoting unhealthy relationships with food, body image, and sexuality).

Gender and Class

The above advertisement is a 2016 video ad from DOVE® Chocolate, which is a brand of chocolate from the Mars company. This is an ad for DOVE®’s new line of Fruit and Nut Blend chocolates; DOVE® invites consumers to “Revel in the pleasure of our…DOVE® Fruit and Nut Blends made with silky-smooth DOVE® dark chocolate…” (“DOVE® Story”). Throughout the advertisement, there is a Caucasian woman in a luxurious dress who appears to experience ecstasy from eating this chocolate. In many chocolate advertisements, we see these similar poses with the eyes closed, mouth ajar and head tilted back. Dr. Carla Martin has compiled images of these type of gendered ads, which one can view here. Furthermore, there is a scene of the woman holding a whip, perhaps making a subtle reference to sexual domination. With the slogan of “Choose Pleasure,” we see that DOVE® appears to be appealing to the sexual connotation of “pleasure.” This association of a sexualized women with chocolate is still pervasive and it has deep roots in chocolate advertising.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 8.53.15 PM
These screenshots from the video show the images of the woman in ecstasy from eating chocolate. In most of these images, her eyes are closed and there is a focus on her lips. Her styling (clothes, makeup, hair) exudes a high-class and luxury feel.

In the seventeenth century, chocolate houses were male-dominated. However, in the eighteenth century, there was a shift; chocolate consumption and production became feminised as it moved into the domestic sphere (Robertson 20). This resulted in the promotion of heterosexual romance narratives as well as the narcissistic female consumer (30). These themes are overt in the DOVE® ad where the main character is overcome by eating this chocolate. Furthermore, the sexual undertones mimic the projection of heterosexual yearnings and fantasies onto chocolate consumption (35). For example, the images of the dominatrix as well as the woman being chased by a horse may depict subtle sexual projections. All in all, these images are problematic because they show women’s identities becoming subsumed by their consumption habits and it forces a harmful and unidimensional character onto women in general (35).

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 8.55.06 PM
A screenshot showing the lead character with a whip in her hand, perhaps suggesting a sexual connotation of pleasure.

Another important theme that comes from this advertisement is class, which is closely entwined with gender. DOVE® started as “DOVE® candy shop,” and was found by Leo Stefanos in the 1950s. At its inception, Stefanos focused on the purity of his chocolate and this focus on quality and purity was continued when Mars acquired DOVE® in 1986 (“DOVE® Story”). On DOVE®’s marketing website, Mars totes DOVE®’s “Chocolate Difference,” emphasizing its “silky smooth” and “rich taste unsurpassed by other bars” and its “highest standard of quality” (“DOVE® Chocolate Difference”). By emphasizing DOVE®’s quality, Mars seems to be targeting a certain upper/middle-class audience who would care about DOVE®’s “special roasting and grinding” and the minute differences in mouthfeel. This is certainly evident in the film advertisement where this woman portrays an upper-class and elite image. Her dresses are luxurious and silky, simultaneously indicating her access to wealth as well as the luxuriousness and silkiness of the chocolate product itself.

In the eighteenth century, as chocolate became feminised, it also “became associated with luxury and leisure in the domestic sphere” (Robertson 20). At the same time, industrial progress in the nineteenth century allowed chocolate and cocoa to become available for the working class. However, it was common for companies like Cadbury and Rowntree to appeal to upper middle-class women and men (26). By portraying an elegant, wealthy-looking woman, female consumers could “aspire to the romantic lifestyle of the leading character” (27). This appeal to a high-class woman also elevates a simple chocolate bar into an item of luxury and provides an avenue for upward social mobility (27). All of these factors help promote DOVE®’s image as a high quality product.

Pushing Back

In order to push back on this advertisement, our group made a still image that addressed the issues listed above. Instead of using the sexual connotation of “pleasure,” we decided to define “pleasure” in different ways. For instance, for one person, “pleasure” could mean enjoying a meal with family members and finishing this meal with a piece of chocolate. Another example of pleasure may be relaxing and watching television after a long day of work. Furthermore, instead of just focusing on women, like many chocolate advertisements do, we also included men in our advertisement. By separating the sexual connotation of chocolate consumption that is often associated women, we hoped to avoid the trope of the narcissistic consumer and the heterosexual romance. Lastly, we found the advertisement to define an exclusive form of what the “high-class woman” is, so in order to make it more inclusive we included a mix of genders, ethnicities and activities. We thought that this could also broaden the market that this advertisement could appeal to.

Dove Ad
An advertisement created to push back on the typical images that we usually see in chocolate advertising.


Critically evaluating, deconstructing and pushing back on these advertisements are crucial because the mass influx of advertisements on a daily basis, particularly those that promote sexualized women, can have negative consequences for many. Studies have shown that adolescents’ views of sex and body image are largely shaped by marketing and that they often experience body image dissatisfaction after being exposed to sexualized advertisements (Parker et al.). An ad such as this could also have the potential to harm body image ideals by pushing a unidimensional idea of what “sexiness” and “luxury” are. Recently, there have been some positive effects of advertisement. For example, Dove Beauty’s campaign using models of many different shapes and colors increased their sales sevenfold by boosting female image satisfaction (Parker et al.). By being more skeptical of marketing tactics and being more knowledgeable, perhaps there can be a change in advertising techniques for chocolate and it could be a win-win for both the consumer and producer.

Works Cited

“The DOVE® Story.” DOVE® Chocolate. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

“The DOVE® Chocolate Difference.” DOVE® Chocolate. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

Martin, Carla. “Valentine’s Day: Women Being Seduced By Chocolate.” Bittersweet Notes. 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

Parker, Stephen, Diana Haytko, and Charles Hermans. “The Marketing Of Body Image: A Cross-Cultural Comparison Of Gender Effects In The U.S. And China.” Journal of Business & Economics Research (JBER) 6.5 (2008). Web. 3 Apr. 2016.

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

Image Links

Screen caps were taken from the video ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55ysVbtoZZ8.