Tag Archives: portrayal of women

The Innocent, the Grotesque, and the True “Dark” Side of Chocolate  

While advertisements and marketing are meant to draw positive attention to their products, oftentimes they only cause controversy and scandal. Marketing promotions are often riddled with sexist, racist, or classist undertones that overshadow the true meaning of the advertisements; one of the biggest offenders is the food industry, specifically advertisement for sweets and chocolates. Chocolate marketing often relies on portraying women and children as innocent and sweet creatures that turn sinful and corrupt from the sensual tastes of chocolate. However, sometimes these campaigns can backfire, instead causing controversy and scandal that overshadow the initial intents of the advertisements.

Chocolate is a highly sexualized product ever since its popularization as a food product in the early European periods. Even before print adverts of chocolate and its mass production with the growth of large chocolate producers, chocolate was already a food targeted at women. In anecdotes that spread in the in the 1800s, women were portrayed as weak to the ways of chocolate; in Chiapas, Mexico, women would have to interrupt religious ceremonies in order to consume chocolate midday (Robertson, 68). These types of stories imply that women are unable to sustain or fuel themselves without chocolate, going so far as to suggest that they cannot perform basic functions (such as religious Mass) without taking time off to consume chocolate.

Furthermore, these stories paint pictures of women as unable to control themselves in a chocolate-induced rage. Continuing the story above, the women of Chiapas supposedly poisoned the bishop for not allowing them to eat their chocolate (Robertson 68). This paints the image of the typical “chocolate consuming” stereotype of women, creatures unable to control themselves around chocolate, and induced to perform sinful and carnal acts, such as killing, to get what the sweets that they crave. As historian Emma Robertson puts it, “chocolate becomes explicitly associated with sinful temptation in this tale, with women ruthless in its pursuit” (68).

This stereotype of a sinful, craving woman, cultivated by historical anecdotes as old as the history of chocolate in the modern world, persists today stronger than ever. In chocolate commercials, women are still lustful after chocolate. While examples of women depicted with this stereotype abound, this commercial from Nestle in Kazakhstan is particularly representative:

Here, a beautiful woman, happy with a teddy bear gift from her boyfriend, suddenly rips up the cup stuffed animal, and proclaims that it has no almonds or wafers. While this ad might seem harmless and cute, it is a prime example of how chocolate ads depict a woman’s lust and overpowering desire for chocolate. The woman, who is initially cheerful, becomes angry when he finds that she does not receive a sweet treat, leading her to rip up a cute stuffed animal and toss it away with little concern.

While these ads may have tones of sexuality and sinfulness imbued in their images, some ads can take this idea too far. In 2009, an advertisement by Peruvian chocolate company Caribu, produced by the ad agency El Garaje Lowe, generated lots of negative publicity and controversy.


In this print ad, we see an innocent, sweet, smiling young girl playing “kitchen” in her room. However, looking more closely at this ad reveals a truly horrifying scene; the little girl is killing a baby chick by grinding it up in a meat grinder. This innocent scene now looks extremely eerie; the green background of the room becomes creepy, and the girl’s sweet smile suddenly seems perverse and sinister. In the corner of the image, we see the tagline of the image: “The Dark Side of Sweetness”. The dark humor here is revealed; when you give little girls chocolate, their truly “dark” side comes out, and they can be motivated to do horrible things, including killing an animal for fun. While this ad may have intended to be dark humor for the intellectual who could look past the girl’s heinous acts, this ad severely miscalculates how disgusting it is, and is rendered ineffective. People cannot get past the image of a young girl, the usual picture of innocence, killing an animal in a disturbing way, after having consumed chocolate.

This ad attempted to, and failed, to represent a dark humored “dark” side of sweetness; however, what is even more sad and dismaying about this ad is the true “dark” side of the chocolate industry. While ads such as the ones shown above by Caribu and Nestle joke about the sinful acts that chocolate induce, the chocolate industry is suddenly mute at the true sins of the industry regarding child labor practices. In the Cote D’Ivoire, where almost 40% of all cacao beans come from (Mammel), there is a strong prevalence of child labor, where children, 60% of whom are under the age of 14, are forced to toil on cacao farms by their families and “owners” whom their families sell them to. These children make no money, and are often given dangerous and gruesome tasks to do, such as wielding machetes with no protection or hauling bags of cacao for miles (Mammel).


With this truly dark side of chocolate in mind, we decided to rebrand our chocolate advertisement from showing (failed) dark humor to depict the true dark side of chocolate: child labor practices. In our revised ad, the true evils of the chocolate industry are revealed; when the children eat chocolate, they are now directly contributing to the child labor present in the chocolate industry. Their lips are stained with red blood, and they are “whipping” the children laborers, who toil to make them their delicious sweets.

While our ad may not actually sell anything, it instead acts as a PSA for the real dark side of the chocolate industry. Instead of continuing to sell chocolate as a sexualized, passionate, and sometimes sinful delight, we hope with our PSA we can contribute to exposing the true evils of the chocolate industry, and close the gap of knowledge between the fantasy of marketing and advertisements, and the true hardships behind what we eat.


Bear | Heart | Kitten- Nestle Chocolate TV Commercial Ad. Youtube. Youtube, 14 Oct 2014. Web. 10 Apr 2015.

El Garaje Lowe. “Caribú Bitter: Canari.” Ads of the World. N.p., Jan. 2009. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.http://adsoftheworld.com/media/print/caribu_bitter_canari.

Mammel, Mitchell. “Child Slavery: The Bitter Truth behind the Chocolate Industry.” Terry. Nov 2013. Web. 10 Apr 2015. http://www.terry.ubc.ca/2013/11/26/child-slavery-the-bitter-truth-behind-the-chocolate-industry/.

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. 1-131. Print.



From “Jezebel” to “Diva”: How Cadbury Plays Off The Evolution Of Negative Stereotypes Surrounding Black Women  

Cadbury’s May 2011 Ad Targeting Supermodel Naomi Campbell

Since the 19th century, African American women have been the victims of many harsh and untrue stereotypes surrounding their appearance and behavior. Unfortunately this still holds true even for today. In May 2011, Cadbury, a well known and successful United Kingdom (UK) chocolate manufacturer, decided to launch its campaign for its chocolate bar, Dairy Milk Bliss. This campaign proved a wrong move for Cadbury as it displayed overtly racist undertones, inciting anger from Naomi Campbell, the model who was targeted by the ad, and the international African American community. Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Bliss not only directly likened Campbell to chocolate but also perpetuated a negative Diva stereotype about African American women, unnecessarily adding to a long history of African American women being wrongly characterized and portrayed at their own expense for the profits of others. By promoting such hurtful stereotypes Cadbury not only further damaged the image of African American women across the globe, but also contributed to the psychological trauma of African American girls of today.

Typically depicted Jezebel

To understand the Diva stereotype, one must first understand the Jezebel, the stereotype from which Diva evolved. The Jezebel was the “young, exotic, promiscuous and over-sexed woman (Stephens, 2003).” She was primitive, attention seeking, and could not control her own sexual appetite (Stephens, 2003). The Jezebel only thrives on the attention of men, using her sexuality to gain her access to her material goods and needs. Light skin, long straight hair, curvaceous, and loose, the Jezebel was used to justify the rape of enslaved women by their masters due to their “insatiable appetites” and continuous “seduction of white men”; in reality these women were continuously abused by their masters, used to satisfy their sexual desires and economic need for more “slave babies (Stephens, 2003).”

Destiny's Child--A group according to Stephens et al, 2003 that has been promoted using the Diva stereotype
Destiny’s Child–A group according to Stephens et al, 2003 that has been promoted using the Diva stereotype

However, around the late 20th century the Diva stereotype broke out. Similar to the Jezebel, the Diva is light skin, long straight hair, and is traditionally pretty in a Eurocentric way (Stephens, 2003). She is considered a high maintenance woman with an attitude. She needs to be at the center of attention, and is incredibly appearance driven, spending tons of dollars and hours to keep up her clean, polished look (Stephens, 2003). Sexually, the Diva diverges from the Jezebel because although she is seductive, sultry, and at times immodest, she is never explicit or overt; she cultivates the image of being attractive yet unattainable through her smoldering looks, tight fitting clothing, and sassy walk (Stephen, 2003). Materialistically driven, the Diva is considered a woman who has made it and can afford to purchase her own goods. On the other hand, the Diva is also looking for a man who can “enhance what she already has” bringing a rise in income and status to her name (Stephens, 2003).

Supermodel Naomi Campbell
Supermodel Naomi Campbell

This is why with such a history behind the word Diva, Cadbury’s ad is 100% inappropriate. First, directly likening Naomi Campbell to chocolate is an insult as chocolate has many negative connotations such as dirty, impure, sinful, and exotic (Martin; Rosenthel et Vanderbeke, 2015). Cadbury cannot argue against this fact because out of thousands of models they chose to single out Campbell because of her race and because of her ability to fit the Diva stereotype. Light skin, long straight hair, and slim, Naomi physically fits the Diva mold. Because of her successful career as a model, she is seen as an African American woman who has “made it.” As a model, she is regarded as seductive and sultry, and is always put together. The materialist needs of the Diva (and essentially Naomi) are exaggerated by Cadbury as the Dairy Milk Bliss Bar is sitting in a sea of gems with a purple backdrop, suggesting luxury. The lines “Move over Naomi” and “I’m the world’s most pampered bar” adds insult to the wound as it continues the idea of Divas, specifically African American women, being rude, spoiled, and high maintenance.

The implication of Cadbury’s ad on young African American girls is also frightening. Currently, African American girls are one of the fastest growing groups contracting HIV and other STDs due to unsafe sexual practices (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013). In an attempt to understand the cause of this, researchers Dr. Davis and Dr. Tucker-Brown went about questioning African American female adolescents about potential causes for such sexual decisions. One topic was mainstream media’s affect. The adolescents felt that status for African Americans was tied into involvement in pop culture, specifically rap videos, where the women depicted were extremely sexualized and degraded. Because status for these girls is tied to luxury items and attention, many desire such status and are willing to do whatever it takes to get it, even if it requires degrading one’s body and self, promoting unsafe sexual practices, and having inaccurate portraits painted of one’s self. One of the girls, Peace, reported, “You get the bling [diamonds] when you are a video girl” noting “Everybody wants to wear Gucci or Prada and at our age how else are you going to have that kind of money? (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013)” Sabrina, another study participant, elaborated further stating “that girls her age just want to be known and have stuff (Davis et Tucker-Brown, 2013).” By perpetuating the Diva stereotype and the need for status and a sexual identity, Cadbury is further harming African American girls who already encounter such negative stereotypes in current mainstream media.


Thus, in an attempt to fix Cadbury’s ad our group created a new ad, removing all race analogies and Diva stereotypes from the article, changing it to reference Mr. Sandman and Dairy Milk Bliss’ superior dream inducing qualities. While we could make those changes, sadly some things could not be changed. For example, by using the color for royalty and fancy, elegant, cursive font, Cadbury is making a divisive statement about its company as a luxury brand, one that can only be afforded and should only be dreamt of by the upper classes. Therefore for future reference and success, our group recommends that Cadbury stop trying to create a divide between the classes and instead employ marketing techniques that attract people from all backgrounds, without it being at the expense of any marginalized community.

Works Cited

Davis, Sarita, and Aisha Tucker-Brown. “Effects of Black Sexual Stereotypes on Sexual Decision Making Among African American Women.” Journal of Pan African Studies 5.9 (2013): 111-28. Www.jpanaafrican.com. JPAS (Journal of Pan African Studies). Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://www.jpanafrican.com/docs/vol5no9/5.9Effects.pdf&gt;.

Knowles, Beyonce. Destiny’s Child Playlist. Digital image. http://www.beyonce.com/destinys-child-playlist-2/. 8 Oct. 2012. Web.

Naomi Campbell Calls Out Victoria Beckham About Racism on Runway. Digital image. Http://atlantablackstar.com/2013/10/30/naomi-campbell-calls-victoria-beckham-racism-runway/. Web.

Martin, Carla. “AAS 119x Lecture 16:Race, ethnicity, gender, and class in chocolate advertisements.” Harvard Emerson Hall, Cambridge. 30 Mar. 2015. Web. 30 Mar. 2015.

Rosenthal, Caroline, and Dirk Vanderbeke. “On the Cultural Politics of the Racialized Epidermis.” Probing the Skin: Cultural Representations of Our Contact Zone. Cambridge Scholars, 2015. 88. Print.

Stephens, Dionne. “FREAKS, GOLD DIGGERS, DIVAS, AND DYKES: THE SOCIOHISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF ADOLESCENT AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN’S SEXUAL SCRIPTS.” Sexuality and Culture 7.1 (2003): 3-49. Http://faculty.fiu.edu. Florida International University. Web. 10 Apr. 2015. <http://faculty.fiu.edu/~stephens/documents/DStephens_FreaksGoldDiggers.pdf&gt;.

Sweney, Mark. Cadbury Apologises to Naomi Campbell over ‘racist’ Ad. Digital image. http://www.theguardian.com/media/2011/jun/03/cadbury-naomi-campbell-ad. 3 June 2011. Web.

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.

Snickers Satisfies?: Adherence to Gender Norms in Snickers Advertiements

In the 2010 Super Bowl, Mars Chocolate Company released a Snickers advertisement depicting Betty White, an elderly celebrity, playing football with a group of young men.

The reception for this ad was overwhelmingly positive and played a major role in the launch of Snickers’ “You Are Not You When You are Hungry” ad campaign. Close observation a commercial advertisement that was recently released as a part of this campaign reveals that Mars uses ads to highlight their chocolate as the ideal impulse purchase item for hungry individuals. However, this analysis also reveals that, in order to portray a Snickers bar as a quick and easy solution to problems that arise when one is hungry, Mars company often creates ads that perpetuate stereotypical gender norms. Because many of their ads involve a rectifying the ways in which men and women express emotion, Mars Company sends out a message that individuals must conform to what Ekman and Freisen (1969) call “display rules”, or socialized and gendered rules on the way that men and women should display emotion.

Following the launch of its “You Are Not You When You Are Hungry Campaign”, Mars released numerous commercial advertisements. For instance, in the 2015 Super Bowl, Snickers released the following ad.


One can see that within this commercial Mars attempts to depict Snickers bars as a quick and easy solution to the emotional outbursts that occur when a person is hungry in order to portray the good as a great impulsive buy. In this ad, Marsha (played by Danny Teljo) is clearly having an emotional outburst over her appearance until her parents fix the situation by offering her a Snickers bar. At first, this commercial seems harmless and funny. However, closer analysis reveals that, in their attempt to make Snickers seem more appealing and useful, Mars falls short by playing into the gendered stereotypes on the way that men and women should express emotion. By making Danny Teljo, a large masculine actor, have a near-violent temper tantrum on screen as he acts as an overly dramatic teenage girl, Mars highlights a gendered stereotype that men are much more belligerent than women. This stereotype in amplified after Teljo eats the Snickers and turns into the sweet and docile Marsha. Through this commercial, Mars attempts to humorously illustrate what happens when a man attempts to express a young teenage girl’s frustrations: mayhem and violence (in the form of an ax being thrown into a table) ensues. In addition, by adding the tag line “you are not you when you are hungry”, the makers of this ad further restrict male and female forms of emotive expression by prescribing a judgment on which form of self-expression is “normal” or most appropriate for a woman.

It is also very important to notice how the ending of the ad also serves to perpetuate these gendered emotional “display rules”. At the end of the ad, Jan (played by Steve Buschemi) runs off upset because the lack of attention that she receives from her parents. One cannot help but notice that there is a significant difference in the way that Jan expresses her frustrations in comparison to Marsha-most notably the lack of violence or physical aggression. The fact that no one in the Brady family interpreted this form of emotional expression as abnormal for a woman could also serve as a perpetuation of socially acceptable gendered emotional displays. Perhaps if Jan had also started throwing things aggressively, the characters in the ad would have offered her a Snickers bar as well.

According too Coltrane and Messineo in “The Perpetuation of Subtle Prejudice: Race and Gender Imagery in 1990s Television Advertising”, media ads often “provide a diffuse confirmation of one’s world view” and “promote acceptance of current social arrangements” (364). Based on the overwhelming praise that this commercial received, one can see that this statement seems to be strongly supported. Therefore, in order to combat the perpetuation of gendered norms witnessed within this Snickers ad, I would create an ad that challenges the very gendered restrictions on emotional expression that the original ad highlights.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 5.03.42 PM

For example, in the above ad, one can see that (the late) Joan Rivers would be casted due to her reputation for being extremely dramatic and over-the-top. However, by failing to change her appearance into a male character (as seen in many Snickers commercials), I believe that this ad would challenge the notion that men and women must express emotions according to their gender. At the beginning of the ad, Joan’s friends note that she is behaving dramatically and offer her a Snickers to remedy the situation. However, the fact that her emotive response is still dramatic in spite of the fact that she is a male after eating the Snickers challenges the idea that men and women must relegate their emotional responses to certain rules based on gendered norms. In addition, I believe that the bewilderment of the male friends would help highlight the ridiculous fact that they were even expecting some sort of change in behavior simply because their friend was now male.

All in all, it seems that Mars falls a bit short in its attempt to make its product more appealing by playing into gender norms on emotional responses for men and women. I truly believe that through an ad that satirizes this tendency, more awareness to the prevalence of this issue in our society could be cultivated and could bring out the changes needed to eradicate some of these beliefs.

Works Cited:

Coltrane, S., & Messineo, M. (2000). The perpetuation of subtle prejudice: Race and gender imagery in 1990s television advertising. Sex roles, 42(5-6), 363-389.

Ekman, P., Sorenson, E. R., & Friesen, W. V. (1969). Pan-cultural elements in facial displays of emotion. Science, 164(3875), 86-88.

Brady Bunch ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqbomTIWCZ8

Betty White ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=60c9Rc0pw2c

Praise for Brady Bunch ad: http://www.billboard.com/articles/events/super-bowl-2015/6458193/super-bowl-2015-best-worst-commercials

Naomi Campbell and Chocolate

In the ad below, Cadbury compares its new chocolate bar to model Naomi Campbell, saying “Move over Naomi, there’s a new diva in town”.  Though the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that “the commercial was likely to be understood to refer to Naomi Campbell’s reputation for ‘diva-style’ behavior rather than her race” (Daily Mail), both comparisons nevertheless present problems.  To combat this ad in two ways, its branding of women as divas and of African Americans as chocolate, we created a new advertisement with key phrasing differences that remove any potential race or gender discrimination.


                This purple Cadbury ad, widely distributed in 2011, refers to Naomi Campbell, the famed supermodel .  The ad directly compares Campbell to a diva, telling her to “move over” for a new diva, the Cadbury chocolate bar.  The implication here is quite clear.  Simply, Naomi Campbell is a diva.  In this sense, the word diva is used to mean an extremely talented but very temperamental female.  A diva is someone who likes to be pampered and indulged, beautified and treated like a princess.  By comparing their new chocolate bar to a diva, Cadbury hopes to give the impression that their chocolate bar is the most luxurious, most delicious chocolate bar out there.  However, by doing so, they further the idea that women are divas.  Though being a diva is good in that it is defined to mean exceptionally talented, it carries the unfortunate connotation of also being extremely spoiled and almost mercurial.  Thus this ad falls into the classic chocolate ad tendency of defining women as emotional and subject to giving into their every last desire.  Like most chocolate ads, “it associate[s] chocolate with luxury, women, and moral taboos” (Fahim 15). By changing the word “diva” to “star” in our ad, we eliminate the emotional portrayal of women and retain the idea of excellence.  If we were to keep Campbell in our ad (which we eventually do not), we could make a convincing case for her status as a star instead of as a diva.  Campbell is one of the most successful models of her time and is constantly in the public eye – both qualities that would identify her as a star. Another change we made to this effect is to substitute the word “revolutionary” for “pampered” (in the lower right corner of the ad).  The word pampered furthers the emotional and temperamental association started by diva and classifies women as people who need to be given gifts and have their desires met.  “Revolutionary” instead enhances Cadbury’s message that they are introducing a new product that is going to change the market because of its excellence.


                The implication that Campbell is a diva is clear from the ad, but the more controversial portion of the ad is the possible comparison of Campbell to chocolate because of her skin color.  Cambpell is of African descent and has a skin tone that would be classified by most as black, though of course there are a range of skin tones that are considered to be black. By specifically choosing Campbell as the diva to refer to in the ad, Cadbury adds the “exotic” and “magical” air to their chocolate described by Roberston in “Chocolate, Women, and Empire” (Roberston 1). The United Kingdom, Cadbury’s primary market, is largely composed of white consumers.  The population is not homogenous, but the majority of consumers are white.  Thus a non-white model is perceived as “exotic” because of the difference in skin color.

Instead of simply using Campbell to sell the chocolate, because they directly tell her to “move over,” many consumers assumed that Campbell was being directly compared to the chocolate – that she was the chocolate.  This was offensive because the basis of the comparison was that her skin color allowed her to be classified as a good for sale.  Interpreting this historically, it is possible to make ties to slavery and argue that this is a commoditization of humans, especially those of African descent. This, I believe is the basis of the large amount of criticism Cadbury received for its ad.  To eliminate this racist and historically disturbing association, we remove Campbell from the ad entirely, instead replacing her with the term “supermodels” in general.  By using the word “supermodels”, race becomes ambiguous and unimportant.  Supermodels are still stars, so the intended selling point of the ad remains the same, just the racial connotation is removed.  Our final ad can be seen below.  It is very similar to the original ad, but by chaning “diva” to “star”, “Naomi” to “supermodels”, and “pampered” to “revolutionary”, we eliminate both the race and gender discrimination that are so commonly found in chocolate advertisements.


Interestingly, this is one of the only examples of an African-descended woman to promote chocolate.  As Fahim states in his article, traditionally white women are used to portray the image of luxury and chocolate whereas black women are used to portray earthiness and a lower-class product (Fahim 16).  In some sense, this ad is a step in the right direction by not using a white model.  However, its downfall is that the non-white women is not being used to make the chocolate more attractive.  Instead she is being directly compared to the chocolate.

Interested in reading the Daily Mail’s article about the controversy over the ad?  The full article can be found here.

Works Cited

Fahim, Jamal. Beyond Cravings: Gender and Class Desires in Chocolate Marketing. 2010. http://scholar.oxy.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1002&context=sociology_student

Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. 2010.

Multimedia Sources



ad created by the author and partners

Food and the Ideal of Motherhood

Our modern culture conceives of women in a two-fold manner: as responsible for both childhood well-being (as an extension of their role as homemaker) and for bringing about affectionate maternal bonds. This ideal is furthered by depictions in mass media, and specifically in advertisements, which often ignore the possibility of shared domestic responsibilities (shared with either another partner or the children). Accordingly, recent research has shown that women are three times more likely than men to be shown in the home than at work in advertisements and are most often depicted as product users rather than authority figures (Eisend 2009). Similarly, men are present in only 1.4 percent of ads about housekeeping compared to 32.4 percent with women (Paek et al 2010).

In line with this trend, this advertisement depicts a woman creating harmony out of morning chaos: preparing a “nutritious” breakfast of Nutella and toast for her children, all the while looking completely cheerful:

Examining this advertisement with a critical eye, it is clear that the woman is acting out her femininity solely as a doting mother, not worried about getting to work or eating breakfast herself. Similarly, though, the ad begs the question as to why media depictions of families so rarely involve men or children helping with chores: why is it only mom’s responsibility to put breakfast on the table?

This narrative, of woman as a mother and caretaker, while entrenched in centuries of unequal cultural standards for women is also borne out of modern consumerism and a changing “ideology of motherhood.” Karen Lynch discusses this change at length, delineating four stages of idealized motherhood in the Ameircan socio-historical context. She explains that this ideal has evolved from “obedience, rather than maternal bonds of love and affection” in the Puritan era to a focus on mother as a central caregiver, “responsible for the proper emotion and physical development of children” today (Lynch 2005).

This Nutella ad largely serves to solidify this link between motherhood and child well-being. Nutella, which has 21 grams of sugar in 2 tablespoons (about the same as is in three chocolate chip granola bars) is described not only as an easy breakfast option, but a healthy one. By emphasizing how healthy and natural Nutella is (real hazelnuts! Skim milk!), Ferrero is simultaneously mis-promoting its product as well as relying on and perpetuating the role of women as central caregivers. If the mom on TV who clearly cares so deeply for her children recommends Nutella as a healthy breakfast option, then I should buy it too. The ad, therefore, is demonstrating “healthy eating behavior” while also idolizing the image of woman as the mother who is solely devoted to taking care of her children.

The other, related aspect of this symbol of womanhood is the emphasis on the role of food in creating bonds between mothers and her children. Similar to the ad above, where the mother is positively thrilled to be making breakfast, in this Nutella ad the mother has served breakfast (is not eating herself) and is looking dotingly at her children who all smile adoringly at each other:

Nutella ad 1

As Parkin points out in the book, Food is Love, while many Americans might have believed that as women entered the workforce, advertisements would change to encapsulate a new image of gender equality, not only are women still shown as being solely responsible for the family’s health, “in the hands of women, food is love” (Parkin 2011). This ad, which shows a mother (again, alone) providing dinner for her children with the help of hamburger helper, focuses food preparation as this type of ritual of motherhood, emphasizing the love between mother and child that is borne out of her providing food for them:

<div style=”position:relative;width:100%;padding-top:56.25%;padding-bottom:40px;”>http://www.ispot.tv/share/7VFG</div>

This is deeply intertwined with the idea of woman as a consumer – the woman is a mother who protects and embraces her children and does so “in the context of commercial promotion,” promising closeness that a product, whether it be Nutella, or Hamburger Helper, can bring (Cook 2012; Robertson 2009).

In response to this problematic cultural symbolism, and specifically to the first Nutella advertisement discussed above, our group put together this ad:

Blog 3 Ad

There, both the children and the father are making a nutritious breakfast together. This ad, of course, should be subject to a similar type of critical analysis. Specifically, for example, this ad could be seen to be detracting from a positive portrayal of single fatherhood (the father is noticeably wearing a wedding band), or idolizing the idea of “home-made” breakfast as the epitome of good parenthood. That having been said, the ad does address the traditional gender roles captured in advertisements about food as well as emphasize that children can also take a role in helping in food preparation (and other aspects of helping around the house). Relatedly, we made a concerted effort to move away from the promotion not only on motherhood, but specifically on an idealized white motherhood. The ad therefore strives to critique the role of woman as a mother who is solely responsible for the family’s nutrition and can only achieve a loving relationship with her children through food preparation.


Cook, Daniel T. “Through Mother’s Eyes: Multiple Mothers in American Mothering Magazines.” (2012): n. pag. Web.
Eisend, Martin. “A Meta-analysis of Gender Roles in Advertising.” Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science 38.4 (2010): 418-40. Web.
“Hamburger Helper TV Commercial for Box Tops.” ISpot.tv. N.p., 21 June 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Lynch, Karen D. “Advertising Motherhood: Image, Ideology, and Consumption.” Berkeley Journal of Sociology 49 (2005): 32-57. Web.
“Nutella Commercial.” YouTube. N.p., 27 June 2011. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Paek, Hye-Jin, Michelle R. Nelson, and Alexandra M. Vilela. “Examination of Gender-role Portrayals in Television Advertising across Seven Countries.” Sex Roles 64.3-4 (2011): 192-207. Web.
Parkin, Katherine J. Food Is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania, 2006. Print.
Robertson, Emma. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2009. Print.

The Sexualized Woman

In advertising for chocolate, women are portrayed as sexualized figures generally representing a class of high socioeconomic, heterosexual Caucasian individuals.

As Emma Robertson says in Chocolate, women and empire, “Women consumers were often depicted in Aero adverts of the late 1930s being urged to listen to their desires in an implicitly sexualized discourse: ‘Do you know that when you get an urge to eat chocolate, you shouldn’t resist – there’s a deep physical reason for it?’ These urges are ‘natural’ and should be obeyed: ‘When you resist the urge to eat chocolate you are ignoring one of Nature’s most serious warnings’” (Robertson, 35).

In a historical sense, women were seen as sexualized people and used to market goods. Even today this themes exists in advertising as I discovered a particular commercial that especially capitalizes on sensual images and noises of a woman to advertise chocolate.

This “Sexy Chocolate commercial” begins with a woman tearing open a chocolate wrapper and then sensually imagining the making process for this 1848 chocolate bar. I interpreted this advertisement as if the woman is masturbating, shown as the chocolate is made, and does not need a man to have an orgasm. It suggests that when she has chocolate, he sexual needs are met and sufficiently pleased. There is no literal talking in the video – just moans, sighs, and sounds of the chocolate being made.

Going above and being the sexual image typically captured of a woman selling a product, this video also arguably plays with the issues of race, gender, and socioeconomic status. By using a white woman wearing a gold ring that may suggest wealth, this product draws a line across race, gender and class. In response to this stratification amongst consumers, I worked with a classmate to create an advertisement in response to this video.

Screen Shot 2015-04-10 at 4.14.45 PM

(View larger size here: chocolate pics-2)

We decided to create this advertisement to critique the historical portrayal of women, sexuality, and race in marketing for certain products, particularly chocolate. These three pictures contain the same dialogue between two individuals: “Honey, this isn’t going to work” “I know, we don’t need each other if we have chocolate.” This advertisement, literally containing couples turned away from each other in bed, is meant to illustrate that if these individuals have chocolate, then they can have orgasms on their own. Just as the video hinted at masturbation, the pictures suggest that when we just have chocolate and ourselves then nothing else is needed. The targeted audience of our creation is for both men and women of all races and sexuality preferences, as opposed to the typically slanted intent of advertisements. By coupling individuals of the varied race, gender and sexual preferences, we criticize the stereotypical white, heterosexual couple serving as society’s norm. Chocolate doesn’t have a sex, a gender, or sexual preference; anyone can have it and it can be your sexual partner regardless of who you are and whom you like.

In modern day advertisement of Divine Chocolate, Kristy Leissle comments on the role of females as they are portrayed in advertisements. “Through a complex rendering of Ghanaian women farmers as attractive, socially mobile beneficiaries of their own development efforts, the Divine adverts offer a positive space in British print media for viewers to question narratives that place Africa in an eternal developmental lag. They invite connections among people who grow, sell, and consume luxuries like chocolate, across a visual gulf that is often too vast to bridge“ (Leissle, 122).

The modern role of females, as Leissle adequately demonstrates has taken on a meaningful stance against the traditional and primitive notions in advertisement. The position that women hold as co-owners of Divine Chocolate suggest that “the gendered development of imagery reframes Africa’s roles in modernity, creating an alluring female figure that envisions and promotes Africa’s contributions to industrial production and its role in luxury consumption” (Leissle, 123).

Even with this powerful advance in the right direction to empowering women in Africa’s advertising, the historical sexualized women in chocolate advertisements endures.

This image is of yet another example demonstrating a woman sensualizing the process of eating chocolate, possible naked and enjoying her orgasmic experience.

Works Cited:

Leissle, Kristy. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies 24.2 (2012): 121-139.

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


Images Used:




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.

Promoting Products Rather Than Gender Norms

Women are commonly used throughout advertisements today as an object of attraction. Whether it is a revealing outfit or seductive look, women’s bodies are used in order to sell products to men. When this began, magazines would publish “gendered editions so that food and beverage companies could market certain products that they hoped would appeal more to one gender than the other” (Parkin, 2007). Research by Dahl, Sengupta and Vohs (2008) supported these gendered editions because it indicated that unlike men, women will have unfavorable reactions to sexual advertisements. However, if it is in a manner that is consistent with their underlying values these reactions will be alleviated. Although it is still generally assumed that these advertisements use attractive women in order to sell to a target audience of heterosexual men, if this trend is used in a way that is relatable to women, companies can also target women as they aspire to be like the woman in the advertisement. This trend of utilizing women as objects has become even more pervasive in advertising today because it allows companies to use both feelings of attraction and aspiration in order tfilthy chocolateo persuade both men and women to buy their product.

The advertisement to the left is an exemplification of this trend. At first glance, you notice the woman’s flirtatious look and pose as well as the skin she is bearing. This image of a women wrapped only in chocolate may appear to be targeting heterosexual men. But read the tagline carefully – “Indulge your obsession for chocolate”. This tagline seems to be persuading women to behave like the woman in the advertisement and indulge in chocolate too.   Rather than targeting only one half of the population, this advertisement is able to play on feelings of attraction to target men and feelings of aspiration to also target women.

Despite what you may think based on their name, Filthy food company isn’t the only chocolate maker utilizing thisgoDIVA woman theme. The advertisement to the right is one in a series of advertisements for popular chocolate company Godiva. It depicts an attractive woman seductively looking at the audience as she eats a chocolate truffle. The image utilizes the persuasion technique of attraction – heterosexual men who are attracted to the woman will associate the positive feelings of attraction with the product they are selling. Based on what is visually represented in the graphic, the advertisement seems to be aimed at heterosexual men.

The editor of the advertisement uses the attractive woman to appeal to that audience, but look carefully at the tagline, “every woman is one part (go)DIVA much to the dismay of every man”. In modern slang, diva is a word used to describe a successful woman who is both attractive and fashionable. With this tagline, the editor is saying that every woman has a “diva” side – a part of them that aspires to be this attractive, fashionable and successful woman – much to the disappointment of men as it means they may be high maintenance and more difficult to please. The editor intentionally engages with stereotypes about gender roles in the advertisement in order to make it relatable for both genders. However, there are some unintended effects of engaging with these stereotypes. The advertisement plays on this attraction between a man and woman, but neglects the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations that exist furthering the gender binary and heteronormative stereotypes.

This advertisement is just one example of larger trends related to objectification and gender stereotypes in advertising. As seen in the two advertisements above, attractive women are objectified in advertising because it allows them to appeal to both genders through attraction or aspiration. The Godiva advertisement furthers this trend by playing on stereotypes of gender roles in order to further their appeal to both genders. Women read the tagline and feel empowered to be a successful and attractive woman – to embrace their own “diva” side like the woman in the advertisement and eat Godiva chocolate. Men on the other hand read the tagline and relate to the disappointment they feel when the woman they are attracted to is being high maintenance or a “diva” and needs Godiva chocolate. By engaging with the gender stereotypes that have been prescribed by society, the advertisement is playing into the gender binary and heterosexual norms of our culture.

Fake Godiva Ad
Fake Godiva AD

In contrast to this series of advertisements, we created a new advertisement for Godiva featuring a homeless man on the streets. He holds a sign with the slogan, “every homeless man is one part diva much to the dismay of everyone.” The advertisement not only plays on the irony of a homeless man with a more luxurious product like Godiva chocolate, but also plays on the phenomenon that some homeless people make enough money begging on the streets that they are actually able to afford commodities like Godiva chocolate.

The Godiva series features an attractive woman in order to appeal to both genders, but this advertisement uses a homeless man as a converse to the successful attractive women in order to push back on this trend. Although the advertisement may unintentionally offend the homeless population, the presence of a homeless man in the advertisement is intriguing to both genders without having to objectify women. It illustrates that chocolate companies can appeal to the same audience without having to objectify women and normalize the gender binary and gender stereotypes used in many other advertisements today. It economically makes sense because of the effectiveness of this persuasion technique, but chocolate companies can and should think a bit differently in order to promote their products without having to promote stereotypes, gender roles and societal norms.

Works Cited

Dahl, D., Sengupta, J., & Vohs, K. (2008). Sex In Advertising: Gender Differences And the Role of Relationship Commitment. Journal of Consumer Research, 215-231.

Parkin, K. (2006. Food Is Love: Food Advertising and Gender Roles in Modern America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.


1. https://m1.behance.net/rendition/modules/10328493/disp/3fddea0fd5e88799dc06db43246b8505.jpg

2. http://files.coloribus.com/files/adsarchive/part_647/6476105/file/chocolate-everywoman-small-84618.jpg

Challenging Domesticity in Chocolate Milk Advertising

The following image is a still shot from a Nesquik commercial showing a mother feeding her children Nesquik chocolate milk. The advertisement presents the chocolate milk as wholesome, nutritious, and pointedly a product of good motherly parenting. This message is certainly not new, and in fact represents a dominant message in chocolate advertising through the later half of the 20th century and still today (Robertson). Emma Robertson in Chocolate, women and empire explores and reports on this trend and the stereotypical portrayal of women as homemaker.

Still shot from a NESQUIK commercial
Still shot from a NESQUIK commercial (1)

An advertisement created as juxtaposition (below), shows a woman consuming chocolate milk in a different setting. Here two women are in a business meeting, and Nesquik is placed as a substitute for coffee. This woman could be the very same woman as in the Nesquik commercial. She could be a mother and a wife, but she also has responsibilities outside of the home. She needs fuel herself, and Nesquik is her chosen drink for such fuel throughout her day at work.

Remake of the NESQUIK commercial - Rachael Cornelius & Leah Gaffney
Remake of the NESQUIK commercial

Robertson emphasizes that portrayal of women in the domestic sphere dominates chocolate advertising, and has for decades. She mentions that women are sometimes, but rarely, featured “outside the domestic context as paid workers” (Robertson 20). To drive her point, Robertson uses Rowntree advertising as a case study. She presents a 1951 advertising brief: “any technique by which we can appeal to the mother’s concern for the well-being of her family or her related anxiety about being a successful mother and winning the loyalty and gratitude of her husband and children might serve as a vehicle to make her think of Rowntree’s Cocoa in the way we want her to think of it” (Robertson 20-21). Rowntree ads, no different from the Nesquik advertisement above, appeal to a woman in her motherly capacity, emphasizing that feeding children chocolate milk is an act of good, loving care. Perhaps this tactic is a bit old? Mothers will undoubtedly put the well-being of their children as paramount. Marketing to that is smart, but the concept has become trite. The reaction advertisement attempts to modernize the portrayal of a woman. In the response ad, chocolate milk still appeals to a female consumer, but instead appeals to her personal needs as an independent woman with responsibilities other than childcare.

This modernization echoes some sentiments of Divine chocolate advertisements, which feature female cocoa farmers in glamorized photos. Kristy Leissle describes this as a “remodeling” of women as “ideal development stewards” (Leissle 131). A similar rebranding is seen in the Nesquik advertisements (one true and one created) above. In both cases, the remodeling attempts to modernize the woman. “Unfettered by husband and children, the Divine women are never essentialized as reproductive labourers. As such, they do not seem responsible for anyone’s development but their own…” (Leissle 132). The Divine commercials feature the women alone, just as the recreated Nesquik commercial features women without children. But this does not intend to diminish the other aspects of a woman’s life; it simply celebrates their importance in another setting. Leissle addresses this: “Although the women are farmers, they are not shown farming cocoa. Instead they hold pieces of chocolate – the luxury food made from the fruit that they grow” (Leissle 128). This association does not strip the woman of her occupation as farmer, but shows her with status, strength, and independence. Similarly, in the recreated Nesquik commercial, although the woman may be a mother, she is not shown caring for her children.

Thus, the recreation of the Nesquik commercial attempts to break the banal, repetitive messaging of chocolate advertisements (selling to women as homemakers) with a refreshing portrayal of a modern woman.


Below are similar images of other Nesquik commercials, showing the continued use of the same marketing technique: appealing to women as mothers and homemakers.

NESQUIK commerical
NESQUIK commercial (2)
NESQUIK commercial (3)
NESQUIK commercial (3)

Works Cited

Leissle, Kristy. 2012. “Cosmopolitan cocoa farmers: refashioning Africa in Divine

Chocolate advertisements.” Journal of African Cultural Studies24 (2): 121-139

Robertson, Emma. 2010. Chocolate, Women and Empire: A Social and Cultural History. pp. 1-131

NESQUIK commercials:

1) “Nesquik commercial with Bret Loehr.” Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEHdT2Ycto0

2) Retrieved from http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/tv-commercials/nesquik-bangkok-4680405/

3) Retrieved from http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7nvU/nesquik-chocolate-bunny-ears