Most people (myself included) can admit that they have a soft spot for chocolate. There is nothing better than treating yourself to a sweet snack. However, in advertising, the simple pleasure of indulging in sweets has transformed into a sexualized fantasy as if it is out of a romance film. The YouTube (also shown on TV) ads displayed above are examples of chocolate and coffee companies targeting women by suggesting that their problems and insecurities can be resolved through consuming unhealthy snacks, or what I call, eating their feelings.
The Dove, Nespresso, and Lindt commercials (shown above) all share the feature of paralleling the product to a young attractive male figure in the setting of a romance film. However, instead of courting the woman romantically, he is serving her the satisfaction of indulging in sweets. As a result of this, the beautiful models are women who appear happy and independent. All three products appear as exotic or international by attaching cultural and stereotypical themes to their ads. The final common theme they all share is the product (either chocolate or coffee) is displayed as the desirable object. For example, the slow-motion pour of coffee in the Nespresso ad does not send a merely literal message. Above all, the slow sensual pouring functions as a code to symbolize desire or sensuality (Barthes. 20). These features suggest the advisements promote the ideology that enticing but unhealthy food can satisfy women’s desires and aspirations. This not only exploits women, but it suggests that consumer culture is constructing unrealistic needs and expectations out of womens lives.
This communicated ideology is proved through the four ideological functions described in Goldman and Papson’s Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning. First, these ads socially and culturally construct a world in which women can be empowered through consuming sugary treats. By attaching the idea “individual freedom” to these sexualized products, the videos are using the tactic of “commodity feminism” (Goldman, Heath, & Smith. 338). For example, the slow motion and red curtains revealing the Lindt truffle signify an irresistible “luscious” desire. The audience is told that a bite of the chocolate turns into a moment of “passion.” The ad suggests that a woman is independently satisfied and empowered through the chocolate’s sensuality.
Dove chocolate also uses this tactic in a commercial by digitally altering a model’s face to look more like Audrey Hepburn. This movie star character chooses chocolate over the attractive man. By using a cultural figure who most women idolize, Dove attaches the meaning of feminism to their brand. When she puts the hat on the man and sits in the back of the car, she appears rebellious and independent from men.
In the Nespresso coffee video, Penelope Cruz tells the audience that her perfect café is where she “never has to compromise on anything.” By choosing this coffee, that is depicted to be more desirable than the young man holding it, the ad suggests that women do not need a man or to compromise for one when drinking Nespresso. These tactics exemplify marketers turning “feminist social goals to individual life-style” that can be purchased (Goldman, Heath, & Smith. 336).
Secondly, the ideology is told through the ads by disguising and suppressing inequalities, injustices, irrationalities and contradictions about nationalities (Goldman & Papson. 96). For example, the Nespresso ad exploits Penelope Cruz’s race by using the European stereotype to sell coffee to Americans. This tactic is described in Hook’s Eating the Other where “ethnicity becomes spice, seasons that can liven up the dull dish that is mainstream white culture” (366). Ignoring the fact that not all Europeans have a mediterranean look and accent like Penelope Cruz suggests that Nespresso is commodifying race to make their product appear international. Furthermore, Lindt sells their chocolate by attaching the Swiss origin to their brand, while Dove (an American brand) uses an Italian setting. These commercials communicate to their audience that diversity can be experienced through “eating” their products.
The third function, discussed by Goldman and Papson, is when the ads communicate a discourse that promotes a normative vision of our relationships (96). By exploiting women’s dreams and fantasies for a romantic relationship, the commercials suggest that the best relationships are through unhealthy consumption. The fourth way that these ads carry the ideology is by reflecting the logic of capital (Goldman and Papson. 96). The satisfaction depicted through the models smiling and closing their eyes in a sensual way (image below) suggests that this will be experienced through purchasing their product. The sense of satisfaction not only suggests sexual satisfaction, but also confirms the woman’s ultimate choice of product.
Women cannot really believe that chocolate or a cappuccino can give them the satisfaction of independence, do they? Unfortunately, they must! Most food ads targeted towards women utilize this ideology because it is working. Therefore, to expose the truths behind brands exploiting nationalities and women’s insecurities, I will create a spoof video titled “Eating Your Feelings.” The spoof video will consist of video similar to these examples. The first scene will consist of an exotic looking woman happily taking a bite into a piece of chocolate over a romantic sounding song. The voice over in the video will sensually say ‘happiness with every bite.’ The next scene will be a young woman sitting at the table covered in expensive chocolate and empty wrappers. Struggling to take another bite, she thinks aloud and questions ‘is this what “happiness with every bite” means?’ As the chocolate makes a mess, she looks sick and full of the amount of chocolate she just consumed. Feeling no different than she did before, she just realizes that the ad on TV is a scam and is left with a melted chocolate bar in her hands.
The spoof video contrasts the lives depicted in the advertisements to the realities of consuming unhealthy snacks. The purpose of this spoof is to prove that a liberating and sensual experience cannot be attained through consumption. Using the common elements of these commercials (such as commodity racism, and commodity feminism) and then exposing the realities through twisted humor will hopefully explain that these companies exploit anything to trick us. The comedic part of the video will be that we all agree that the reality of eating a lot of chocolate is sickening, however, the viewer will also feel bad for the girl in the film, and will then learn not to listen to the advertisements. These companies are not interested in the happiness of women, instead interested in the money they spend hoping to achieve happiness. Vince Carducci explains this “‘meme’ warfare” technique as “culture jamming.” By applying my criques to an element of popular culture such as YouTube, my video will hopefully intersect the “consumer culture as a viable path to social change” (130). I would like my counter video to speak to women and tell them not be dissuaded into consuming overpriced, unhealthy products in an attempt to better your situation. Quite the opposite of feminist independence, by associating themselves with commodities, the women of the ads are making themselves objects of consumption.