Monday, May 30, 2011

Naomi Campbell pulls the race bar on Cadbury ad

How do you react to this ad?

If you're Naomi Campbell, your reaction is: "I am shocked. It's upsetting to be described as chocolate, not just for me, but for all black women and black people. I do not find any humour in this. It is insulting and hurtful."

And now Cadbury faces a possible boycott over it.

Operation Black Vote's Simon Woolley has written to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, asking them to mobilize the African-American community over this. Because although Cadbury chocolate is not sold in the United States its parent company, Kraft, is the largest confectionery, food, and beverage corporation headquartered in the US. (Ironically, the Kraft takeover of Cadbury led to many boycott calls from UK chocolate fans.)

"Racism in the playground starts with black children being called 'chocolate bar'," Woolley Explains. "At best, this is insensitive, and at worst it demonstrates Cadbury's utter disregard for causing offence. Its lack of apology just adds insult to injury. The Eurocentric joke is not funny to black people.

"It's particularly galling because we've just had a week that saw the establishment fall over themselves to be close to the Obamas and yet black people are being derided in such an insulting and negative way."

But do you really think the creative team was even thinking about the colour of Naomi Campbell's skin? This is a women who, when sentenced to perform five days of community service with New York's sanitation department for assaulting her housekeeper, "attended her community service wearing designer outfits, including fedoras, furs, and—upon completion of her sentence—a silver sequined Dolce & Gabbana gown."

If you're going to choose someone to personify the word "diva", there are few who wear it so well.

But unlike Dunkin' Donuts, Cadbury did not pay Naomi Campbell for the use of her name. I'm pretty sure that's what got her attention.

And the racialization of the ad? I'm sure it was unintentional. Although the comment about "chocolate bar" (is that a common slur in the UK?), or the fact Borat often used "chocolate people" as a derogatory term in his wanderings, at least show that offence can be taken, if you're looking for it.

Cadbury insists the campaign was "a light-hearted take on the social pretensions of Cadbury Dairy Milk Bliss". They have, however, pulled it.

I think the real moral of the story is "don't fuck with a supermodel".


  1. Heh, funny this should come up in the wake of the furor over the Dove Before/After ad.

    Much like the Dove ad, I do think that this is an unfortunate coincidence, but that being said, an underlying message is still a message and in light of that, I think Cadbury did the right thing, as they at least acknowledged how the ad could be perceived as problematic, regardless of how innocent their intent may have been (in contrast to Dove's "Nuh-uH!" response). It would have been much less problematic if they had used a different 'Diva', for example Mariah Carey or Christina Aguilera.

    I would agree that her particular ire probably has more to do with the unauthorized use of her name, but who am I to speculate on someone else's state of mind?

  2. ...especially Naomi Campbell's ; )

  3. Well if 'chocolate bar' is racist, so is 'vanilla cream pie'. I'm hurt and offended by any mention of chalky, vanilla, white, cream, etc etc etc.....

    See how ridiculous this all is??????

  4. Anon, when was the last time someone actually referred to you as Vanilla (outside of BDSM/Kink circles, but that's another issue altogether ;-))

  5. I agree with Yandie. Campbell is probably just being a Diva, which just reinforces the probably non-racist intent of Cadbury's ad in the first place, but given the reaction, they did the right thing pulling it.
    Did you know that "Oreo" is a derogatory term? An African-American professor I had in university, who was a student during much of the 60's activism in the US, thought it was interesting/ironic that 20+ years later, students were sitting outside the administrative offices at U of T, demanding the university divest funds from South Africa, to protest apartheid, the whole while snacking on Oreo cookies.

  6. Nothing is obscure on the internets, Bonnie:

  7. @ Tom, I cringed at that.

    @ Bonnie, I remember reading one of the Babysitter's Club books as a kid. One of the girls got referred to as an Oreo "Black on the outside, white on the inside" by a mean kid at camp.