Over the course of the past century, women have been the primary target for all types of food advertising (Parkin 151). This is particularly evident when looking at candy advertising, which has attempted to appeal to a seemingly special, supposed ‘biologically predetermined’ relationship between women and chocolate (Inness 14) Despite the obvious weighting towards women in the candy market, however, there remains a specific place in candy advertising for men.
As noted by Jane Dusselier in “Candy and the Construction of Gender,” the 1920s saw advertisements directed at men begin ‘characterizing candy as a valuable fuel rather than a feminine indulgence’ (Inness, 15). While women’s candy was seen as a dainty, sensual treat, men’s candy was marketed as having more of a purpose to its consumption. This trend remains true in the new millennium, as exemplified in advertisements for Snickers bars.
According to parent brand Mars, Snickers bars ‘Curb your hunger before your hunger curbs you’. The product page of the Mars website shows a thick log of chocolate, ‘packed’ with almonds, caramel and nougat being gripped, vice-like, by a huge male fist. In order to distance itself from any sort of flippant feminine indulgence, Snickers is explicitly marketed by Mars as not a sweet treat, but a realistic antidote to hunger. The ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ series of advertisements attempts to cement Snickers as a source of sustenance and useful energy.
Snickers television commercial, 2011
The above television commercial features veteran actress Betty White playing football with a group of burly young men. Once she’s fed a Snickers bar by his girlfriend (who does not eat, but merely serves the candy), he transforms into a man again, capable of carrying out his duties – that is, playing dirty, masculine ball sports.
The link between Snickers and manliness is one that is continually spruiked by Mars’s advertisers. The commercial below is from the ‘Get Some Nuts’ series of advertisements featuring The A Team character Mr T.
Snickers television commercial, 2008
This particularly television commercial features a man in brief yellow shorts speedwalking down a suburban street. From atop a military vehicle, Mr T yells that the man is ‘a disgrace to the man race’ and shoots Snickers bar from a bazooka gun until he begins to ‘run like a real man’. The contrast between Mr T and the object of his temper is stark. Mr T is a large, black man with an authoritative voice and presence, while the speedwalker – that is, the one who needs to ‘Get Some Nuts’ – is slim, white and effeminate.
The contrast between Mr T and his presumably less-masculine counterpart was certainly not a coincidence. Such a comparison draws distinctions about what constitutes a ‘real man’, and what doesn’t. Ultimately, the advertisement was pulled by Mars after the Human Rights Campaign accused the band of perpetuating ‘the notion that the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is a group of second class citizens and that violence against GLBT people is not only acceptable, but humorous’ (Sweeney). The fact that the speedwalker was seen to be effeminate was both a critique of his masculinity and sexuality.
Compare Snickers to a contemporary candy bar that’s marketed specifically to women, such as the Fling bar, also by Mars. The Fling bar, a ‘shimmering, indulgent…treat with under 85 calories per stick’, is marketed with the tagline ‘Naughty… but not that naughty’.
The name suggests an illicit affair, addressing but then disregarding feelings of remorse, claiming ‘you can indulge without feeling guilty’. In comparison, the Fling bar and the Snickers bar respectively exemplify the relationship women and men are supposed to have with chocolate. While men are encouraged to eat – ‘You’re not you when you’re hungry’ – and, indeed, they are shown ravenously taking open-mouthed bites of huge Snickers bars, self-denial and guilt are used as drawcards for candy marketed towards women.
As exhibited by the marketing of Snickers bars, ’men’s’ candy is about self-satisfaction with wild abandon, with no second thought to denial or restraint. For Snickers-eaters, chocolate is supposed to be about satiation – the satisfaction of hunger. A 2011 study by Anschutz et al found that men are less likely to be concerned about their snack food intake, and more likely than women to respond to exposure to food advertising (Anschutz et al, 256). This is potentially because food advertising that targets men doesn’t reference guilt, shame or indulgence the way ‘women’s’ candy does. For men, the devouring of chocolate is not about indulging in a wicked treat, one so illicit that it can be compared to an extra-marital affair. For advertisers targeting men, such as Mars Snickers bars, this perceived lack of restraint works in the brand’s favour.