Take a look at this Cadbury’s ‘Only the best cocoa from Ghana goes into making a Bournville’ advertisement:

Am I the only one who thinks this advertisement is a metaphor for racism and actually glorifies it? Look at the situation being set – A white man in an oldworldly suit, a fastidious accent scrutinizing a dark-coloured object (a coffee bean).A group of black men whose dress and body language indicate a much lower economic and social strata.

It hit me right between the eyes when I first saw the ad, but I thought I might have been imagined things. Then the ad moved to the next step. The black men crowd around the table, waiting with bated breath for the white man’s scrutiny, until he pronounces his judgement,

“He’s nothing.”

The object of his derision, ostensibly a coffee bean (!!) whimpers and sheds a large tear. It gets even more appalling. The white man looks confused and says,

“Tell him I’m sorry.”

The black men look embarassed until one of the younger men tosses it off the table and grins around.

This advertisement has been on air for a few months. I’m both appalled and bewildered by the fact that there’s been so little talk about it and that it continues to air its terribly offensive stance into our homes every day. What has Cadbury’s got against the black community? And how are they allowed to get away with this?

Dark chocolate has been ruined for life, in my eyes. I used to be a Bournville fan. But if this is what it means to ‘earn a Bournville’, I’ll stick to being ordinary and treating human beings like human beings.

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Update 1: Sumant sent me this article by Nisha Susan for Tehelka. I wasn’t aware of the issues in Ghana over cocoa, when I wrote the post. Sumant’s comment and this article only add to my conviction.

Update 2:Β  A friend sent in a link to a Facebook Note. In it, the writer addresses both Cadbury’s & Ogilvy (The agency that created the campaign). In the discussion that follows, the writer & some of his associates draft a complaint to ASCI. Note however, that this discussion happened in August 2011 and as of January 2012, the advertisement is still on air.

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30 thoughts on “Racism Earns You A Cadbury’s Bournville”
    1. @Ankita Gaba: No? When was the last time one rich white man lorded it over a bunch of (black) people who stood around waiting with bated breath for their master’s judgement? What was the last situation in which one rich Caucasian got to make that ultimate statement of dismissal ‘He’s nothing’ which would lead to the object of his judgement being destroyed? I’ll give you a clue – It starts with R, Africa has been fighting it for decades and the African-American community is still struggling with the fallout of it.

      There’s way too much in common to make this ad a complete coincidence. And if it was meant as a joke, it’s in very, very bad taste, indeed.

  1. Nope. its not against the blacks, its discriminating against the beans. I think you’ve read the ad completely wrong.

      1. @Rohan: I think not. But perhaps you’d care to illustrate why you believe I don’t understand it – what ‘metaphor’ means to you and why you don’t agree with the post above in the ad being a metaphor for racial discrimination.

  2. This ad definitely has racial overtones. If I were an African, I would have taken offense for sure. Kraft Foods is a behemoth and with their experience, should have known better

  3. It’s a metaphor for the slave markets in Africa where the white colonialists would select healthy males who could work on plantations. It is a historical reference too obvious to ignore. Imagine an ad where a SS commandant inspects his Jewish prisoners and rejects the unhealthy ones in the same way as in this ad. That would make for a good bournville ad too.

    1. @ ashwini:
      a) No, that would not make for a good bounville ad – because it doesnt say anything about chocolate
      b) stop looking for ‘historical references’ where there are none. When did the joy of appreciating things at face value go? Every ad targeting woman as desicion makers does not metaphorically point to liberation from male dominance, and every apparel ad with male actors does not imply accepting homosexuality.
      Because ‘forcefully metaphorically’ speaking, we’re all guilty of any crime you name.

  4. Hi Idea,
    The man in Judgement is intellectually superior (because of technology and his skills) , this is in no way racial. .
    It is a well known fact that the western (white) world is technologically superior and run factories which produces the best cocoa or chocolates. One cannot claim since all races are humans they have the same technological ability.
    However the ad is guilty of putting it on our face the very fact, i.e it is still the white man who is going to make the decision (on his judgement) merely due to the fact that he runs the factories (he is the buyer) and know his cocoa.

    Judgement: Cadbury’s #notguilty of racism as accused. πŸ˜€

  5. Well… Against a human or against a coca beans,,, maybe I am a little extra sentimental. Rude dismissal is always in bad taste…the adv is definitely advocating supremacy for folks who are eating the advertised product. All in all thumbs down πŸ™

  6. I have been thinking about your point of view. shared this with some tweeple and will be discussing it over evening kaapi too. but as of now, i feel that if the coffee beans are best in ghana, and that is where cadbury sources them from, then they are going to show a bunch of african guys standing there. AND if the product gets made in some ‘dominated by whites’ country, the guy in the coat is going to be white. The white guy, assuming he is an expert on selecting the best coffee bean that will go into the final product, is right in his place to reject a coffee bean. I actually like the young man who tosses it to the side because that coffee bean did not qualify. So there. I get no hint of racism in it. Unless there is something obvious that i am totally missing out on.

  7. There are so many ignorant aspects to this ad that it boggles the mind. Cocoa trade has led to such severe exploitation in Ghana and other parts of Eastern Africa that whole villages have been wiped out or reduced to abject poverty in the process. That most of it has gone to Western Europe should not come as a surprise, either. The ad itself might not be overtly racist, but it most certainly is insensitive to a history that is fraught with injustice and violence. The ad smacks of Rhodes and Macaulay, and their belief in White superiority, that the White Man knows better than everyone else, that the judgement of the local is not to be trusted even when choosing a cocoa bean.

    The ad is idiotic, and certainly ignorant. I’m generally very cautious about labeling something racist, because that comes with certain implied belief systems that I don’t think underscore this particular effort. However, Kraft was certainly wrong to not immediately understand that there’s something wrong with this ad. If there was someone who was callous enough to say “if they think it’s offensive, screw them,” then I heartily recommend that that person be fired.

    1. Oh my. Ok, I was not cued into the situation there. In light of what you have just said, I am starting to see your point. If this industry caused such a serious amount of human rights violation across an entire nation, then an ad based around that theme, without taking into account the reality of the scenario, sure seems to be a very flippant thing to do. This changes everything about how I see that ad. Thanks for your follow up IS.

  8. I think you are over-reacting. The world as is…there would be a white buyer and ghanian sellers of cocoa. Would you believe it if the farmer was white?

  9. Sorry Smithy, disagree with you on this. There are black men surrounding the table because the setting is in Ghana, the home of fine dark beans. He’s not scrutinizing a ‘dark coloured object’ – he’s scrutining the primary ingredient that could go on to make world class chocolate. Like Kiran earlier in this thread mentioned
    – they’re discriminating against the beans, to try and convince consumers that the chocolate they will eat is made from the finest handpicked set. They’re not discriminating against the blacks. I feel that if you want to see it that way, any communication can be interpreted as a metaphor for something. Think we’re better off looking at this ad as just appreciative of a promise to handpick nature’s finest to produce man’s finest. And not dwell further

  10. This ad is in no way racist or intended to be either. Infact, Ogilvy has made this ad with a very humorous intent like that of most cadbury advertising. Its meant to be taken lightly, its the story of the “bean” not of any man/ woman in the ad. so calling it racist is a bit harsh πŸ™‚

  11. I agree with Johann and Nikita’s sentiments. “Think we’re better off looking at this ad as just appreciative of a promise to handpick nature’s finest to produce man’s finest.”

  12. The main point of the ad is “Bourneville is made from the best Cocoa beans”. The white guy represents Kraft Foods and one of the best cocoa is from Ghana.

    Any other representation would be confusing to be honest.

  13. I don’t get it – just because a cocoa bean is portrayed as it is, in its actual colour, it is a subliminal reference to racism?

    We’re reading far too much into an advert that does nothing more than show things as they are! Can we deny that the English are white or that Bournville is an English town? Can we deny that Ghana is an African nation, and thus, they are dark skinned? Cadbury (Kraft Foods) does source it’s cocoa from Ghana – so now a portrayal of a business transaction becomes racist?

    I love the way people have gone to lengths to illustrate Africa’s colonial legacy, but I am equally surprised to not see even one mention of Cadbury’s commitment to FairTrade cocoa and sustainable sourcing from Ghana! Read: http://www.cadbury.co.uk/cadburyandchocolate/OurCommitments/CocoaSourcing/CadburyCocoaPartnership/Pages/KeyGoals.aspx

    While I now sit and eat my FairTrade Dairy Milk, I just want to say – let’s not jump to conclusions on a creative concept and blast them into stereotypes without reason. The only thing the ad suggests is that the chocolate is the ultimate decadence – made from the best beans!

    1. I agree with @eccentricspeak. Well said mate.

      @ideasmithy – At the outset, glad U got out your thots but I do not find anything racist in this. When commercially someone goes out to do business…the set up has to be like that. They of course can’t show a Saudi Sheikh goin their for Cocoa but well, if it was to do something with oil, they would. It’s like merchants meeting peasants. And specially where the products come best. There hasn’t been any “white cocoa” that gets selected per se. So, this ad is totally misjudged n misinterpreted.

  14. In a way, all the goodies(tobacco, coffee, cocoa, vanilla beans, legumes…) from Asia, Africa and Latin America sent to the buyers in Europe and North America were traded unfairly. But, the economics of trade created it that way. I surely think Cadbury’s could have handled the message of exclusivility better than this.

  15. I have been finding the ad racist for a long while, and today googled to see if anyone else did, and came upon your blog. The ad evokes all the associations of slavery.

    1. @Kavita – I did the same as you….googled to see if anyone other than me found the bourneville ad racist and stumbled upon this blog. To all those who did not find it racist, there is racism even in the stance and ratio of the buyer vs seller. I think the ad would have been less racist if they had shown just two people – one buyer (white) examining beans offered by just one seller (Ghana farmer) and either both should have been seated or both should have been standing. Instead, the current ad implies that Ghana farmers are desperate not only to sell their beans but also to gain the white man’s approval….hence the young farmer sweeping the offending ‘human’ bean off the table. As if to say that anything the white man doesn’t approve really has no reason to exist.

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  17. I have found this ad offensive since the first time I saw it on TV. It’s absolutely disgraceful that in this day and age, something like this can be aired at ALL, let alone for such a protracted length of time. Isn’t there an ad regulation body that complaints, or a petition, can be reported/sent to?

  18. Agreed that its a group of black men waaiting for a judgement of of a white, but seriously… Is it showing racism in THIS scenario?
    The country being Ghana, you guys expect them to show people of every color. They are simply showing locals trying to sell something and the businessman looking just for the best. If you see racism… So weak dude
    Even if they somehow man a white guy somewhere, you guys might just start saying that it is injustice to women, the asians, mexicans, russians etc

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